Treating all of your co-workers equally sounds like common sense, but sexist behavior is still a reality in some workplaces. Men who make negative or stereotypical comments about women or ignore qualified female employees and instead give key assignments to men are chauvinists. Addressing chauvinistic behavior can help you ensure that your qualifications and contributions aren’t overlooked simply because you are a woman.
Some chauvinists might flat out tell you that they believe that men are superior to women, but most men won’t be quite that obvious. Jokes that portray women in a negative or unflattering light are common. Chauvinistic behavior also can be more subtle. Men in the office might not invite you to a group lunch to discuss the new project or make a point of seeming bored when you offer insight or suggestions at a meeting. Chauvinists also might make inappropriate sexual comments about female employees or expect females to take meeting minutes or get coffee for the group, even if the women hold executive positions.
Confront the Chauvinist
When you confront the chauvinist, you let him know that you are aware of his behavior and find it unacceptable. A confrontation doesn’t have to involve an angry exchange. Calmly tell the man that his comment or joke was chauvinistic and let him know that you do not want to hear similar comments in the future. If he leaps to the “it was just a joke” defense, remain calm and explain that whether the comment was a joke or not, it belittles women and isn’t appropriate at work.
Develop a Support Network
The chauvinist might more be likely to change his behavior if several people address it. Ask other women in your department or company to join you in your efforts to end chauvinism at the office. It’s much more difficult to ignore multiple complaints about your behavior. If the good old boy network rules your workplace, develop strong relationships with other women and sympathetic men. If you work together, you might be able to chip away at the prevailing attitudes about the capabilities of women.
File a Complaint
If all else fails, file a complaint with your human resources department. You’ll have a better chance of being taken seriously if other women also file complaints. Be prepared to document instances in which men were chauvinistic. Note verbal comments with the time and date the incident occurred and list any witnesses to the conversation. Provide a copy of emails or other documents that support your complaint. If HR doesn’t take your complaint seriously, consider filing a complaint with the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC enforces laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender in recruitment, hiring, promotions, layoffs, transfers, firing, pay and training programs.
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