People may say shocking or inappropriate things that humiliate us intentionally or unintentionally and often we are lost of words. We may slink away or lose our cool, only to think of the perfect retort hours later.
No longer! Here are nine tips on responding to common instances of workplace sexism inspired by the stories found in my newest publication, Career Interrupted – How 14 Successful Women Navigate Career Breaks (Melbourne Books, to be released October 2015)
1. Comment: ‘You’re getting a bit long in the tooth’
Your quip: ‘It’s called age, and with it comes experience and wisdom. You might even get there someday!’
* It is against the law for an employer to ask you about your age and to discriminate against you on the basis of your answer. (Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and Age Discrimination Act 2004)
2. Comment: ‘Oh, you’re pregnant – and we just spent $$$ on your development! That’s money down the drain!’
Your quip: ‘Really? Well I just might come back to work. What’s the alternative? Don’t invest in development and end up with untrained people?’
3. Question: ‘Have you got any children? *
Your quip: ‘Yes, do you?’
* It is against the law for an employer to ask you if you plan to get pregnant or to ask about your family status and to discriminate against you on the basis of your answer.
(Sex Discrimination Act 1984)
4. Comment: ‘Our board is full of men because we can’t find any women with experience’
Your quip: ‘Is that because your golf club is a men-only club?’
* FACT 80% of men appointed to the ASX 200 Company Boads had no previous experience as an ASX 200 board member either
5. Comment: ‘We don’t have any women in senior roles, but we only appoint on merit’
Your quip: ‘You must have a pretty poor talent pool then!’
* It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against you on the basis of your sex.
(Sex Discrimination Act 1984).
6. Question: ‘How do you know you’ll be as good a doctor/scientist/lawyer after you’ve had a baby?’
Your quip: ‘How were you after you became a dad?’
7. Comment: ‘We don’t accommodate part-time or flexible work for anyone here. Everyone has to work standard hours.’
Your quip: ‘You’re probably missing out on a huge sector of the workforce then!’
* Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act a prospective employer can’t reasonably refuse to accommodate an employee’s carer responsibilities. Employers must consider all relevant facts and circumstances and whether the request is reasonable.
8. Question (mummy mafia at the school gate): ‘How can you leave your baby and go to work?’
Your quip: ‘How can I not? I want my girls to grow up knowing they don’t have to be dependent on a man all their lives!’
9. Comment ‘Women should be at home with their children.’
Your quip: ‘You know, you’re right. A woman’s place is in the kitchen. Let me grab a knife!’
* Latest research shows that children of mothers who pursue careers and fathers who share in the housework are more likely to practice gender equality when they become adults. Working mothers also improve the future prospects of their daughters, who become better educated and earn more.