You’ve heard rumors your new boss is sexist. Your first reaction was disbelief. How could you not have seen it on your interview, you’re thinking. Is it really true, or could it just be a disgruntled employee spreading rumors about him? And if it’s true, you ask yourself, what can you do about it now? You just left your previous job and you’re now stuck reporting to a perceived sexist!
First, don’t panic. It’s your analysis that counts. However, proceed with caution as there’s a good chance the rumor mill isn’t all that incorrect. Keep guarded and professional.
As you are assessing the situation, have a high level back-out plan. What will you do if it’s true? How might it affect your job, your performance, you reviews? Would his behavior conflict with your values and, if so, how much? These are important questions to ask yourself while you are figuring how what you would do in a worst case scenario. The good news: You just job hunted to get this job, so your resume is current as well as your contacts. While it’s not great to jump jobs, this may be one of those acceptable cases for you to do so.
Keep your interactions professional and try to do your job successfully, minimizing contact with him. Basically, deal with him only as it’s necessary. If you cannot do your job successfully without routine contact from him, and you have determined his sexism is true, do your best to not let it affect your performance until you can find another job or report him to Human Resources.
Be sure the sexist doesn’t turn into a sexual harasser. Be on the look out; know the organization’s policies on sexual harassment as well as the laws. After you know this information, and if your sexist turns into a harasser, report it to Human Resources immediately. When doing so, be sure you have either witnesses or email back-ups.
Consider a transfer. If the company is great, but it’s just this one sexist boss who is problematic, there’s a good chance they already know about him.Trust that you aren’t the first knowing he’s a sexist; the rumors and truth about a male like this go far in an organization as he’s affected many more than one woman. So, consider asking for a transfer if you are uncomfortable in this situation.
Never blame yourself. This is a given. While a sexist may try to blame you in any way he can: your attitude, your performance, your grievance, rather than looking at himself and facing the truth, his sexist beliefs have been implanted in him long ago. He’s lived with this perspective his entire life. It’s highly unlikely you are going to change him now. Don’t hurt your career or your self-esteem allowing any thought or person to make you feel you are to blame for this sexist’s behavior, even if that behavior seems not directly related to you. Sexists have learned, over the years, with the implementation of better laws to protect women, to mask or hide their attitudes and manipulate instead, sometimes turning things around to look like your fault. Know you will still be able to see it though.
You may already be more experienced at handling one than you realize. While this may be your first job encountering a sexist boss, think back a bit into your past. You may have already experience a sexist male in high school or college. A sexist teacher, principle, administrator. You can tell, if the rules were different for boys vs girls. For example, a private Catholic California High School punishes girls for wrong attire by publicly humiliating them, forcing them to wear a Quaker-style, bib overall dress down to their ankles for a semester, whereas any boy violating dress code simply gets a Saturday two-hour detention. No public humiliation for males That is a sexist, gender biased environment. In another case, one Girls Night girlfriend had a professor in college who would wear tight leather pants, then lecture standing right next to her in class; his male parts at the same level as her face. That behavior is beyond sexism and is sexual harassment.
Be the ultimate winner – You are the one with the non-sexist outlook, the credentials and gaining the experience. There is nothing, not even a sexist boss, stopping you from making your way to the top and being the boss. You may need to side step sexist bosses, switch companies, or positions, but the path is not always a straight one anyway. Along the way, you gain insight into being the best boss you can be. One thing is for certain, equality will rank high in your work values.
The silver lining – when/if you have a son. In the long run, when you’re in a new environment, with a non-sexist boss, looking back at your experience today in your career, know that there is a silver lining. While you are gaining your career experience, seeking the best organizations in which to work, and encountering antiquated male attitudes toward women realizing those attitudes still may exist; understand that one day you may have a son. And you will know how to raise that boy to be the kind of man who respects women, in all aspects of life. You can be the change-maker in men. If anything, a sexist boss has given you even more motivation to ensure we, as women, never raise another boy into a grown male who disrespects women.
For each one of us women who may fight sexist attitudes at work, stand up to out-dated views, or do what we can to change disrespectful attitudes, we make change one by one, while working in tangent, toward extinguishing sexists. And with that, we continue the journey of ensuring all women are treated with equality and respect.
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