We all have those bosses that are not tactful enough to know how to draw the line between being assertive, disrespectful and just plain sexist. There are bosses that have made statements that are just plain demeaning to the entire female gender and should not be condoned of people in such important positions. Most times, these business leaders (who could sometimes be women, yes, sexist women) are so comfortable in this unruly behavior because they are blinded by power or just entrenched in societies normalization of this very stigmatizing vice. If we do not tactfully and respectfully stand up to our superiors who appropriate sexism through their careless statements, we are accepting this phenomenon and in turn, accepting the many negative impacts of sexism in the workplace, like the gender pay-gap, the gap in women in leadership positions, among other issues. So, it is time we began to SPEAK UP against the sexist business leaders who have become comfortable in their sexism. Of course, we are not asking you to be disrespectful, about this. You have to be tactful and understand the importance of the time and place to speak up. We spoke to 4 women who have spoken up to their sexist bosses and this is how they did it:
Gloria (29) - Banker:
Scenario: It was a team meeting, and my boss was talking about how the team needed to meet its targets, then he somehow digressed to gender roles in the work place and at home…
My Sexist Boss: “Women should be surpassing these targets, you guys know how to persuade more than men, you guys just do not know how to use it for your work, if it is to persuade your boyfriends or husbands for money now, that’s where we will see you”
Me to him (via email): “Thank you for the insightful session earlier today. We will work to achieve and surpass the set targets. Although, I have to say that as a woman, I felt a bit uncomfortable with the statement made about women and their negotiation skills as it relates to their romantic partners. Many women like myself are self sufficient and comments like that devalue our independence, creating room for further segregation and discrimination of women within the company. I am sure this not what our organization stands for. I just thought to mention this. Thank you.”
Result: He always corrected himself whenever he made sexist statements with me in the room.
Ogo (25) - Digital Marketing Manager:
Scenario: We were preparing for a presentation to a client and a lot of things were happening at the same time. In the chaos, I erroneously sent a mail to the wrong recipient.
My Boss: “This is why I do not like bringing you ladies into these high-level projects, you cannot work under pressure”
Me to him (on the spot): “The message will be retracted immediately, although, I have to clarify that the omission was not as a result of my gender. I do not think that was a very appropriate comment”
Result: An apology and a very successful presentation led by yours truly.
Funke (32) - Accountant:
We were mapping our annual leave calendar for the team and I made a suggestion that provision should be made for pregnant employees.
My Boss: “Please, we do not want any pregnant women this year. All these free salaries we’ve been giving out cannot continue”
Me to him (on the spot): “I do not think that was a very informed comment Sir. Are you saying our female employees should lose their sources of income because they are building families as society pressures them to?”
Result: An apology and the approval of the 3-month maternal leave for all pregnant employees.
Scenario: We were looking through the CVs of the final candidates shortlisted for a position within the company after multiple interviews had been conducted.
My Boss: “Please, I don’t want a woman for this role…”
Me to him (on the spot): “Why not? Because, she is the only one that passed this interview flawlessly…”
Result: He could not answer the question objectively. The female finalist was employed in the position.
A lot can change when you speak up. Be the change you want to see. Speak up when next someone in a leadership position makes a sexist statement and make your contribution to fighting sexism in the workplace.