The number of women in the workforce is steadily increasing. According to the United States Department of Labor, as of 2015, 57 percent of women and 69.2 percent of men over the age of 16 are a part of the nation’s workforce. As women continue to pursue more meaningful careers, it is crucial that we understand what makes a safe work environment — for all of us. Here are three all too common issues women routinely experience in the workplace. By beginning to dismantle them, more companies can create spaces where women are comfortable and respected.
Microaggressions are subtle comments or actions that draw attention to one’s marginalized status; for example, as a female or a minority. Comments such as, “You’re not like most women,” or “You’re a pretty good sales associate for a girl,” are examples of microaggressions. Statements like these make it clear that the speaker thinks less of women than they do men.
Rather than calling attention to someone’s gender, get in the habit of giving compliments or feedback that are gender-neutral. Something as simple as, “Great job on that project. I can tell you worked hard on that,” is an excellent way to give feedback based on a person’s accomplishments. By focusing on someone’s strengths or giving constructive feedback without bringing gender into the conversation, you can go a long way to avoid microaggressions and implied sexism.
The English language is dominated by male-based terms. In the workforce, prime examples of this include policeman, fireman, and mailman, to name a few. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is one of the many ways in which our language affects the way we view the world — or a particular profession.
Gender-neutral or female-oriented language can help to fight the subconscious male favoritism in our everyday language. When talking about employees, sending out memos, or addressing a group, use terms such as “the individual,” “he/she,” “we/us,” or “employees,” while avoiding terms like “you guys.” By focusing on inclusive language, you will create a powerful shift towards a more female-friendly work environment.
Open-Door HR Policies
The human resources department is responsible for making sure that all employees are treated fairly. It also ensures that the company and its employees follow proper policies and procedures. Human resource professionals are trained in conflict resolution, sexual harassment awareness, and combating discrimination.
When a company implements an open-door HR policy, they are giving their employees the freedom to walk in and voice a complaint, suggestion, question, concern, or personal issue. It is also a way for a company to protect its marginalized employees.
Feminist advocate Jennifer Dziura recommends filing a complaint with HR as soon as a sexist comment or action occurs. If you should experience sexism in the workplace, it would be well within your rights to contact your company’s HR department. By calling attention to a problem, you will have an influence on your company’s progress towards becoming a female-friendly workplace.
Before starting a new job, review potential employers to determine if they are female-friendly, like this Assurant review. As Jane Park of Julep says, companies are mini societies. “There are many ways that rules of a company impact our lives more than the rules of a government.” So make sure that your mini society is a place where you and your coworkers can thrive. Start off on the right foot with an employer who knows the importance of making the workplace female-friendly.