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Women in Focus

How to deal with sexism in the workplace

by Laurence-Emmanuelle Bédard Published on October 20, 2014

An unwelcome comment, a misogynistic joke, an inappropriate gesture...Even in this day and age of political correctness, women are still subjected to sexist remarks and actions in the workplace. But what’s the appropriate response to this vexing problem?

Recognize an act of aggression for what it is

Some remarks are intentional while others are not. But no matter the person’s intention, it’s important to respond to offensive statements, whether made about you personally or about women in general. When a sexist remark is made, you should also nip things in the bud instead of hoping it won’t happen again. It may well, and it could be worse next time.

Remember what not to do

Not all women react to sexist comments in the same way. Some women become stunned speechless, others confront the person and meet their rudeness in kind, while others raise the stakes by becoming even more offensive–reactions which should all be avoided! When dealing with a sexist, never sink to their level or play their game.



Adopt the right attitude

If you hear a sexist remark, maintain your composure but ask the person to repeat what they said. “Excuse me. What did you mean by ‘hormonal’?” “In what way was my illustration ‘cute’?” “Could you clarify that last remark?”...Always remain cool and collected, never become aggressive, and then watch the person get flustered and eat their words. Works like a charm!

Take the next step if things don’t change

If things don’t change, ask to speak with the person to hopefully resolve the situation. If several people are involved, speak to them individually. If things still don’t change or get worse, speak to your boss. Whatever happens, never allow yourself to become defeated or allow a co-worker to make your life miserable. If the situation becomes untenable, then quit your job!

by Laurence-Emmanuelle Bédard

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