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How do you deal with sexism in the workplace?

I am a student and an officer in my school's engineering groups. I am working with our Society for Pre-engineering at the moment, and I have had to deal with a great deal of sexism. I get comments about being to "girly" to be an engineer and how its a "shame" that I want to spend time in labs. What is your best advice for a girl who is unwilling to sacrifice her femininity to fit the mold that people want us to? #societyforwomenengineers #womeninstem


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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Rosa!


The Everyday Sexism in STEM project has been created to provide a platform for women and their male allies in STEM to document the instances of sexism that they face and observe everyday. This is a forum where all stories are welcome, from the most outrageous displays of gender discrimination to the most subtle and normalized. It is our hope that documenting these stories will expose the myth that sexism in STEM is uncommon and will provide the women who experience it with a sense of community. By sharing here, you will provide evidence that gender bias is real and ubiquitous, you will let other women know they are not alone or isolated in their experiences, and you will establish that it is okay to talk about it:


https://stemfeminist.com/about/

Daniela recommends the following next steps:

ENEMY #1 You know him. I know him. He’s the Manterrupter: a guy in the conference room who interrupts while you’re explaining an idea, only to deliver his version with booming authority; or the dude in your group project who interjects, only to make you lose your confidence. Think Taylor and Kanye, circa 2009. Data shows that men in professional meetings are more likely to speak and interrupt. Women — especially non-white women — are twice as likely to be interrupted by both women and men.
(1) Play verbal chicken: Stay strong and just keep talking. “The key is to prevent him from getting a word in while simultaneously acting like you are the chillest person in the room,” Bennett writes. (2) Lean in: Literally. Place yourself in the closest physical proximity to where the important conversations are being held or decisions are being made. That way, you’re right in the action. (3) Womanterruption: Have your girl’s back by asking her to finish. Interrupt a Manterrupter on behalf of your fellow woman when she’s interrupted. Lead the conversation back to its origin!
See more tips in:
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-deal-sexism-at-work

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BARBARA’s Answer

Rosa,

My best advice for any sort of discrimination or bullying is to stay focused on who I am, my goals, create a support system, and don't be shocked (or afraid) when it happens (anticipate it). There will *always* be people who do not support us. I find that if I anticipate their comments, it helps me not take it personally.


If I don't expect it and take it personally, I brainstorm with friends about some clever replies to take the sting out of the negative comments. Example -- too girly to be an engineer --> I am changing the definition of engineer. Example --  its a "shame" that I want to spend time in labs --> The labs is where the smart girls hang out.


It also helps me to think that unsupportive comments are usually from people who are jealous or envious -- keep it in perspective.


You can also study and share about powerful women engineers in history.


Another big way to avoid any type of discrimination or bullying is to call it for what it is and educate people against their stereotypes or fears.


Go sister, redefine the engineering field!!!!


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Emily’s Answer

Hi Rosa,

Unfortunately it is a problem that comes up in engineering both in school and on the job. Depending on my relationship with the person (peer vs manager/teacher etc) there are a couple of options. If it is a peer, I will generally call them out on it while trying not to escalate the situation. Generally this involves accepting their apology and moving on or shutting down the conversation if they start getting upset by saying something like "well you might not have meant it to be offensive but it was to me." If the situation gets worse you can always escalate to an authority figure or ignore it and commiserate with other people. If the person is an authority figure, I tend to use the external anonymous support systems.

Hope this helps!

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