Gender Discrimination: When to Know It's Really Happened to You

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The majority of women have encountered gender bias at work. Some instances are overt while others are more subtle. The good news is that the majority of people are not intentionally diminishing the value of their female colleagues. The majority of bias is unconscious and unintentional.

Regardless, bias is something that you will encounter in your career. As a woman, it’s important to know some of the situations where bias is often seen and how you can effectively handle it.

You feel marginalized or unheard in meetings

It’s true that men are often more outspoken than women, but if you’re consistently not being heard, your colleagues are likely biased. If you make a good point or observation that goes unacknowledged, but then a male colleague is recognized for the same thought, that’s an example of bias. Sometimes women experiencing these sorts of situations think that the slights are a result of their communication skills. They believe that maybe they weren’t clear, and others didn’t understand their point. Unfortunately, though, it’s often an issue of men’s voices being listened to over women’s.

If you’ve experienced this situation, it’s okay to address it. If a male colleague is credited with a point that you made previously, try saying something like “thanks for your support – I’m glad you agree with my statement”. If you see that someone else is being marginalized, you can also help them by reiterating their idea and giving them credit. In either case, don’t be accusatory or defensive. And remember it’s okay to be assertive and to take credit for your good ideas.

Your male colleagues are being promoted more often

There is evidence to suggest that when women collaborate with men they are less likely to be promoted. The excellent work of the group is attributed to the men more so than the women. If you have seen this occur in your workplace, take the opportunity to speak up and make sure others know about the team’s successes and your role.

Difficulty striking a balance between being respected and being likeable.

Gaining the respect of your colleagues while at the same time being friendly can be a challenge. If you’re too tough, you’ll be respected, but not liked. If you’re too warm and friendly, you won’t be respected. Instead of trying to be one or the other, focus on being empathetic.  Empathy has been proven to be the essential quality of leaders and empathetic female leaders earn the respect of both men and women.

Your commitment is questioned

If you choose to have children, your commitment to your career should not be automatically questioned. When women have children, colleagues often want to know if they’re coming back. Whereas men are never asked this question. Only women are put in the position of constantly assuring people that they are committed to their work. You can confront this issue by being clear about your commitments and the goals you intend to reach.

You will encounter unconscious bias in your workplace. The good news is that when you feel marginalized or unheard, it’s usually not intentional. Realizing this is important so that you can effectively address the situations without being accusatory or defensive. You want to be able to call attention to the biases without alienating your colleagues.

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