I don’t believe that all men are sexist. But after you hear time and again certain kind of comments and experience certain behaviors you can’t help but wonder if the men behind these comments and behaviors are inveterate chauvinists or if they are completely unaware of their impact.
Its true that there are some men out there who mean every chauvinist word they say. But for the most part, I’d like to believe that often the reason men are sexist is that they are plainly unaware of how their words and actions affect not only women in general, but also the most important ones in their lives: Their daughters, wives, mothers and sisters.
As with women, men too are subject to social norms and predeterminations that encourage male chauvinism. They were educated to adopt certain values, behaviors, and emotions in order to be accepted in society and prosper. For generations and generations they have been raised to control power and dominate others and although a lot of that education continues unchanged in many areas of the world and of our own country, things are slowly changing. (Emphasis on “slowly.”)
And as things have gradually changed for women both in the home and work fronts, many men are having a hard time keeping up. Even when they have the best of intentions, many of them lack practice in the nuances of treating women as equals.
So just as I wrote about things women do to perpetuate male chauvinism, this one is for the guys. I’m here offering 13 ways in which men are sexist, ideal for you to pass on to your male colleagues.
13 Ways in which men are sexist that can be easily changed
1Getting upset when wives or girlfriends make more
money. When instead of feeling happy because she got a substantial raise, a woman is worried about her husband’s reaction, you know something is off. Women are graduating with advanced degrees at a faster pace than men and have increasingly more access to higher positions. Don’t be surprised if at some point your partner earns more than you. Support her. Be happy for her. It has nothing to do with your masculinity. And now you can let go of the age-old mandate that made men responsible for the financial stability at home. Read below.
2Assuming men are responsible for financial stability of home. A very old mandate dating back to the time when only men worked and women were housewives and probably much earlier, when men where food providers and women kept the children safe from predators. Men can now relax a bit and share in the responsibility.
3Assuming a woman with children can’t take a job because it requires travel. This is a clear case when men are sexist under the cover of being understanding of a woman’s life stage. Rather than assuming that because she has young kids she’ll say no to a job that requires travel, ask. Let her make that decision. You’d never make the same assumption about a guy, would you?
4Assigning women to support duties. Nothing wrong with assigning support duties if it’s what your team needs. Just make sure you rotate that assignment so it doesn’t only fall on the women.
5Making comments on women’s appearance in professional setting. I’m not saying you can’t compliment a colleague once in a while. But when you only comment on women’s appearance and on men’s performance, you fall in the “men are sexist” trap.
6Dismissing a woman as potential candidate because she “lacks executive presence.” Yeah, meaning she actually doesn’t look like the men who currently have most of the executive jobs in your organization. Embrace women’s different leadership styles and appearance as a diversity advantage. Studies show that companies with larger number of women in corporate boards and in executive roles do much better than those with fewer women.
7Assuming women will not want to participate in sports events. Don’t leave women out when you plan your golf outing or when you buy tickets for a football or baseball game. Always ask, never assume. And if most of the women in your organization are not fans of these type of outings, why not alternate the kind of activities you do for team-building and business development with things everyone can enjoy?
8Assuming women will be in charge of “taking care of others” at home and in the office. This goes from buying, preparing and serving food, organizing parties, events, etc. Men who are sexist stay away from this role and keep other men away as well. Don’t. Share in the responsibility.
9Complaining about women being “aggressive” when they behave assertively. Before you say anything negative about a woman, change the sex of the person you’re about to discuss and answer this question: “Would I make X comment if Mary were John?” If the answer is NO, keep your lips sealed.
10Offering less money to women because they often don’t negotiate. Research shows that one of the reasons why women don’t negotiate as often as men is not connected to lack of skill but rather to a concern for being stereotyped as pushy. Yes. When women negotiate for themselves they are penalized, yet when they do so for others, they are rewarded. So, men are sexist when they take advantage of this stereotype, which they helped establish, and offer women less money than they would a man for the same position.
11Hire and promote men on potential and women on experience. New research keeps confirming that male job applicants who are perceived to have high levels of leadership potential are rated as better prospects than women with proven leadership track records. And it’s often the case that men are promoted and hired on their potential while women have to show a vast track record to even aspire to the same opportunity. Watch out for this bias and bet on women’s potential as much as you do on men.
12Interrupting women way more often than men. It’s a known fact that women get interrupted more often than men. And for many of them, it’s hard to push back without being charged a penalty for being aggressive. Similar to what happens in negotiation situations, women try to avoid the stereotype and allow the interruptions to avoid the label. Let them finish. Hear them out. Validate their points as you do with your male colleagues and employees.
13Penalizing women who take advantage of flex work policies with less career opportunities. Your organization may have amazing policies in place but if women, who tend to adopt them more often are not offered the same career opportunities because they don’t put in the same amount of face time, they are just window dressing. As a matter of fact, the best thing you could do is make sure men and executives take advantage of these flex work policies to set an example.