In recent years, movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up have shined a light onto the sexism and harassment women face at work. But not all sexism in the workplace is as intentional or explicit as the stories that make the headlines. Benevolent sexism, or subtle sexism, usually lacks malicious intent but can have severe negative repercussions on a woman’s confidence and career.
Here are a few examples of subtle sexism women still experience in the workplace today:
1. The wage gap
On average, men today tend to make more money than women in virtually every profession. In the U.S., women working full time are paid 82 cents to every dollar earned by men – and this wage disparity adds up over time. The result of lower lifetime earnings means women receive less in Social Security and pensions when it comes time to retire. Appallingly, women only have about 70% of the overall retirement income that men do.
2. Assigning women menial or stereotypical tasks
Too often, women in the workplace have to perform tasks such as office housework, organizing employee celebrations, getting coffee or taking notes during a meeting simply because they are female. Unless it is explicitly in her job description, a female employee should not automatically be responsible for menial duties that don’t contribute to furthering her career.
3. Overlooking women’s ideas
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a woman’s proposal, idea or suggestion in a meeting to go unacknowledged until a man repeats it. If a woman makes a point that falls on deaf ears during a meeting, it’s essential to amplify or repeat her contribution. Otherwise, a male colleague could likely receive the credit.
4. Assuming a woman can’t handle it
Many male co-workers or supervisors can be guilty of showcasing implicit gender biases or unconsciously attributing stereotypical qualities to their female colleagues. Implicit bias can range from assuming a woman is too emotional or sensitive for a specific role, to believing they lack technical or quantitative skills because they are a woman.
Identifying subtle sexism in the workplace is the first step to quashing the problem. Remember that you have the right to be offended, even if your colleague had no ill intent. By calling out sexism for what it is and amplifying women’s voices in the workplace, you can help to change the working world for the better.