4 ways to respond to gender discrimination at work
Gender discrimination in the workplace remains a hot issue that's recently risen to the surface in light of multiple women’s allegations of sexism. We are not surprised - in Singapore alone, 71% of women say they still face some form of inequality or prejudice in the office due to their gender, according to a new study conducted by Monster.com.
Although we have abundant examples of successful female doctors, lawyers, bankers and engineers in Singapore, the fact remains that men still overpoweringly outstrip women at senior management levels and gender inequality remains an unsolved problem. The Diversity Action Committee - set up in 2014 to improve female representation on company boards - said such representation has risen from 8% in 2012 to 9.7% as at the end of June last year.
While sexual discrimination is a real problem, women often have to face sexist aggressions everyday in the workplace, many of which are a result of unconscious biases they don't even realise they have. It is therefore as important as ever to continue the conversations about gender discrimination and inequality.
If you've experienced or witnessed gender bias in the workplace, here are 4 ways for knowing how to respond:
1. Seek an explanation - If people in your office pass sexist comments or crack jokes, don't laugh at the comments – at times that can be enough to make your stance clear. That would also make them uncomfortable or force them to take a moment to think about what they said.
Confrontation is key in such instances and without bringing up the issue of gender yet, you should ask, "'I don't get understand why that's funny. Can you explain?'" You can also ask the person if he or she would've said the same thing to a male colleague. It's a good question you can ask with a sense of humour in a non-confrontational way, but still get your point across that you're still being treated differently.
2. Store all evidence – Be smart and keep records of your communication with other co-workers, including your boss. That way, if anything dubious ever happens, you have evidence ready to show any inappropriate behaviour. Some instances may provoke women to call it quits and there may be many other reasons why you might want to leave your job, but gender bias should never have to be one of them.
3. Read your company policy – Get to know your company’s harassment-related policies. When reporting the matter, ensure you keep the paper trail of your correspondence with HR and management. If the company doesn’t take your complaint seriously, seek help from an outside agency such as AWARE. In Singapore, victims may also seek civil remedies such as a Protection Order (PO) or Expedited Protection Order (EPO) against offenders.
Click here to find a handy list of organisations you can contact to report an offense or seek counsel.
4. Confide in a mentor – Having a trusted mentor or colleague you can confide in not only gives you much needed support, it can also serve as important evidence when the time comes.
This Mother’s Day, Monster Singapore launched #SheMakesItWork, a campaign to support mums returning to work, and to encourage employers to consider more family-friendly work arrangements. Watch the full video.
You can also see the infographic for a full breakdown of the survey findings conducted across Southeast Asia.