Is Your Boss Sexist?
Despite strict laws to protect women in the workplace from the negative effects of sexism, just about all of us have found ourselves in a situation with a superior who thinks he’s, well, superior simply because of his gender. But believe it or not, there are actually two sides to this coin. Have you ever considered the fact that female bosses can be sexist, as well? You might not be too bothered if you get a promotion over male colleagues simply because your boss likes to promote women. After all, it’s high time women helped each other to break through the glass ceiling! But any time a person in a position of power abuses their authority on the basis of sex, it can be a detriment to everyone (even you, if you’re the one wrongly promoted over a better candidate). Here are a few ways to tell if your boss is sexist, and what you should do if they are.
For starters, sexist behavior doesn’t always equate to sexual harassment. Certainly you should report any incidents in which you feel a superior is making unwanted sexual advances or causing you to feel uncomfortable. But sexism is often much more difficult to pinpoint. It may be that a male boss praises or promotes only male employees (or vice versa with a female boss). This is fairly overt behavior that can easily be pinpointed as sexist. But there are other, less obvious ways in which your boss may display sexism.
For one thing, you may notice that a male boss relegates you to traditionally female roles. He may direct you (or other female employees) to fetch coffee for meetings, take notes, or do other tasks for which females have typically been responsible (as in the role of a secretary). If you are the secretary (or personal assistant, as the job is now commonly described) this may simply be part and parcel of your duties. But if your job position doesn’t generally require such tasks, and it seems that male employees in the same position are never called upon to fulfill these duties, then perhaps your boss is somewhat sexist.
Of course, this could happen with female bosses, as well, and not just in regards to male employees. Just because a woman has reached a position of power doesn’t mean she’s any less prone to prejudice based on gender. She may have you fetching coffee and male employees lifting boxes, displaying the same sexist attitude prevalent among male bosses. This is even more disturbing considering that she probably had to rise above such misconceptions herself to get to the position she is in now. Or you may end up with a female boss who is harder on women than men, simply because she had to work harder to get where she is (and she’s taking it out on the females around her).
The long and short of the matter is that both men and women can make for sexist bosses. So if you feel like you are the target of sexism in your office (or you see it happening to a coworker), don’t write it off just because the perpetrator isn’t typical. All forms of sexism are illegal, regardless of the source, and you should make an effort to curb such unsettling behavior before it goes too far.