Have you ever used the phrase, “like a girl’? Run, “like a girl”; hit a ball, “like a girl”; cry, “like a girl”. It’s rarely a compliment. Its intention is derogatory and offensive and it demeans both women and men in its reflection of outdated gender stereotypes and an assumption of inequality between men and woman.
This is everyday sexism.
It occurs in casual interactions. Often a throwaway line – a way of interacting that, with many, started in the playground and carried on into their working careers.
So why should you care – isn’t this just political correctness in overdrive?
At work, everyday sexism comes into play at pivot points in people’s careers, influencing who to appoint, develop, sponsor, reward or promote. It’s frequently invisible and hard to speak up against, so if continues unchecked. Both men and women experience it, and it plays out through gender stereotyping; waiting for the woman to take the plastic wrap off the sandwiches at a lunch meeting or expecting a man to set the agenda and speak first.
To find out the extent of everyday sexism, the Male Champions of Change in conjunction with Queensland University of Technology surveyed some key industries.
Here are six broad categories of everyday sexism.
- Insults masquerading as jokes.
This appears to be the most common form; “make sure you wear something sexy to that client meeting”. It is difficult to even imagine this being said to a man – even as a joke.
- Devaluing women’s views or voice.
Ever interrupted a women in a meeting or restated their opinion as your own or to give it ‘more weight’?
- Role stereotyping.
“We’ll get you to hand out the name tags and smile nicely at the beginning of the meeting”.
- Preoccupation with physical appearance
Comments about body shape, size and physical characteristics, often amplified for women with a public profile. I wonder if the Census results released this week showing a jobs boon for fitness instructors and beauty therapists is a result or a driver of this?
- Assumptions that caring and careers don’t mix
Both women and men are subject to this. Two examples are, access denied to men for flexible working arrangements because caring is a woman’s role and women’s career progression stalled or stoped because they have children and “won’t be interested or committed to their job”.
- Unmerited gender labelling.
Women who are described as bossy, rather than assertive or too emotional or kind and men labelled as too soft or not competitive enough.
Unless leaders call out everyday sexism, it remains a limiting behavioural force holding people back and slowing the closing of the gender divide.
Leaders set the tone and change needs to come from the top. We know diversity is a powerful force in the workplace, making them more innovative, creative and profitable. But no amount of diversity policies will change anything if we perpetuate this everyday sexism. Stopping everyday sexism facilitates the partner of diversity, inclusion. And no-one will ever be included if they are the butt of other people’s jokes.
The introduction of the AFL Women’s Competition in 2016 was a defining year in the century long history of the game. Women have always played AFL but the journey to the elite league was hampered by sexist traditions and barriers. In 2017, the AFLW grand final played to a capacity crowd, exceeding both commercial and community expectations.
On that day, playing like a girl was something to be immensely proud of.
Read the full report: We set the tone, eliminating everyday sexism