Your work ethic is exceptional. You exceed expectations in every assignment. And you’ve proved your worth to the organization over and over again.
Yet you’re still overlooked for the plum assignments, big raises, and promotions.
The good-old-boy management repeatedly taps the men in the department for advancement. It’s infuriating.
As a woman, you feel discriminated against every time you walk down the hallway. Still, how do you prove it?
First, be forewarned: Gender discrimination is often tricky to confront. Higher-ups may resist change, or they may just be in denial.
If you’re a victim, consider these tactics:
1. Compare notes with trusted coworkers. If you believe women are treated unfairly at your office, chances are you are not the only one who’s noticed. It’s likely that your coworkers — women and possibly some men — have detected the same. Consult with your coworkers and build a case. The more people who speak out together, whether it’s through a special meeting with a manager or a letter to the CEO or board of directors, the more likely management will be inclined to recognize and address the issues. Bear in mind that you will need to provide documentation. So, start documenting differences in performance issues, dress codes, flexibility with schedules, and the like.
2. Document any indication of a gender pay gap, and negotiate a fair salary. Determining how your salary stacks up against your male counterparts isn’t easy unless a coworker discloses it. You can, however, research salaries by industry, profession, and skills. If you discover that your salary is at the lower end, use the data to negotiate the salary you deserve. You’ll help your case if you’ve kept a record of your contributions to the company. Don’t be shy about sharing these.
3. Establish well-defined measures for job evaluations. A biased manager can become the roadblock to any well-deserved advancement. If someone like this is holding you back, push for objective criteria. Lobby HR or a department head to establish specific criteria upon which performance will be judged. The more formal the criteria, the easier it will be to prove that you’ve surpassed expectations and deserve a hefty raise.
4. Look for gender bias in job postings. Be aware of masculine terms that can be interpreted as a signal that the company prefers male candidates. A study found that certain words, such as “authoritative,” “competitive,” and “dominant” could be code for “women need not apply.” Particular wording can discourage women applicants and lead women to perceive the work environment as male-centric. Two choices here: You can muscle your way in and fight gender bias from the inside, or you can avoid applying to that company (and save yourself a lot of agita).
5. Make the case for awareness training. In many companies, gender bias occurs unconsciously. Unfortunately, many in leadership positions are unaware of the vestiges of the male-dominant workplace that persist. But if these biases are apparent to the women at the workplace, request training in your department or across the entire organization on unconscious biases and how they manifest. When bosses better understand the ways in which stereotypes are unconsciously expressed, these leaders may begin to examine their own decision-making processes more closely.
About the author:
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-bestselling author of five books, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008) and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep.” She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.