We know the feeling all too well. You flag a problem and it's ignored, just for a man to bring it up a few minutes later and somehow the group acts as though they've just heard it for the first time. You work late and put in extra hours, yet your contributions are still constantly overlooked. You have great experience and qualifications, yet people always seem more hesitant to give important jobs to you, rather than to your male counterparts.
To make matters worse, it's not always a solution to blurt out "GENDER DISCRIMINATION!!!" That's a big charge, and one you're going to need a lot of proof for. Maybe you're in a situation where the sexism is so obvious that, while still difficult, it's possible. But if you're in a situation where it's subconscious bias seeping out, it's going to be an incredibly hard thing to prove, especially when the group is happy believing otherwise.
So, if you're in a situation where running to HR either won't be enough or isn't an option, here are some tips that I have found for you and your girlfriends.
1. Don't become the "yes woman". You WILL be taken advantage of.
It's hard, I know. When you first get a job or a position, you want to prove you're dependable, a team player, and you don't want to come across as entitled. So, maybe say yes to things people need when you FIRST start, but don't say yes to anything and everything. Otherwise, all of a sudden, you went from trying to be a team player to doing everyone's dirty work. And you won't be getting any respect as an equal.
2. Don't apologize unless you genuinely messed up.
I need this one tattooed on my body as a reminder. I apologize ALL. THE. TIME. Maybe if you apologize to your friends, they'll tell you that you had nothing to be sorry about. But in this atmosphere, if you say sorry, chances are people are just going to assume you messed up. Not only that, but you're actively backing down. This is not going to help when you're fighting to be treated as an equal to the guys.
3. On that note, speak with AUTHORITY.
Get those pauses and "umm's" out of your speech. Men who are naturally given authority can pause all they want. As unfortunate as it is, we don't have the luxury to hesitate.
4. If a man blatantly interrupts you, don't let him get away with it.
Make sure you jump back in there. Don't be rude, but don't let go of the talking stick until YOU want to.
5. If your idea is ignored, but then received when a man says it a few minutes later, thank him for agreeing with you.
It's polite, but it reminds the group that this was your idea. We will no longer be letting them get away with it in fear of receiving the label of a "bitch". We will thank them politely, and set the record straight at the same time.
6. If you see another woman struggling to gain respect/have her voice heard, SUPPORT HER!
For instance, if someone takes a woman's idea as their own, chime in with "I'm so glad you like [woman's name]'s idea too! [Woman's name], would you mind telling us more about how you see it working?" (or something like that).
7. Sit up straight.
It's an easy and nonthreatening way to show that you are present and cannot be stepped on.
8. If it's a workplace and it's legal, find out if there's a pay gap.
Not only is this important to fix in terms of equality, but when you are paid less, your contributions are worth less in the mind of the boss.
9. Keep a level head.
People are just waiting to deem us emotional, dramatic, bitchy, or crazy based on one raised voice. Don't give them the opportunity to misjudge you. You know who you are, so make sure they know too. Of course, there are some situations where keeping a level head is no longer important. But in general, it's a good idea.
10. Make sure you're there when the conversation is happening.
This may seem obvious, but it's so important. You just know that when there's conversations about changes or new projects, the men are going to be right there when the person in charge is distributing responsibilities/asking for feedback. Chances are, no one's going to seek you out to hear your thoughts/pitches. But, they will have to listen if you are there in the room. Sometimes just being there at the right time can be enough to make a lot of change.
While some may seem obvious, it's important that we don't drop the ball. Consistency is key here. And even though it's not fair that we have to think about these things in the first place, they will help women get equal respect and that's a huge step as it is. So here's to supporting each other and being heard from here on out!