Statistic: “56% of American men think sexism is over and done with. 63% of women disagree.” That information comes from an essay entitled, “The Pursuit of Happy-ish” by Susanna Schrobsdorff, in the September 5th issue of Time magazine. She also says that more than half of the men questioned in a Pew Research survey believe that the “obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone.”
My co-author and I will soon publish our new book “Sanity and Success for Working Women, A Guide to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate World.” In it, we comment that we wanted to be sure that our material was current. We checked our statistics on the progress of women and work and found very little had changed from when we started our book until now.
And yet, popular opinion is that sexism and obstacles in the workplace are a thing of the past for women. Our culture is so deeply entrenched in intrinsic thinking and behavior, that in large part, we could represent a grand landscape of ostriches with heads in the sand.
The effect of bias against women is so deep rooted that it reminds me of one of those picture games where items are definitely in the scene but hard for us to see without carefully focusing our eyes and taking time to find them.
Some practices are more blatant than others such as sexual harassment. Others are more subtle such as men appearing to hear women during a conversation or at a meeting, but thinking about something else entirely and not hearing a word. There are verbal slights, objectifying women, lack of due promotions, lack of pathways for women, arguing for the fun of arguing, and more.
Of course, we know it’s not only men who are responsible for continuing this unfairness. I, for one, never understand why female celebrities, on shows that children watch, wear blatantly sexy and low-cut outfits on TV, or women insist on pleasing men while torturing themselves with squeezed-toe—tortuously high heels, or refer to women at work as “girls.” What we do as women contributes to behavior as much as what is said.
To me, whatever one’s politics, electing a female President of the United States would be such an amazing milestone to demonstrate that we have broken the glass ceiling, which would be terrific, but even better would be recognizing, as a society, that women are as capable leaders as men. Yet, I have heard and read that female Millennials feel that the fight for women’s equality is something of the past.
At one of my first jobs, I was grabbed in a hallway and kissed by surprise by my boss, and at others asked to date someone twice my age – again a boss, and faced many of the same indignities as the majority of women in the workplace do. Not too long ago, in fact, participating in a meeting with all men, I experienced having my ideas ignored and denigrated, verbally ganged up on and criticized without merit.
As the leader of a women’s forum for seven years, as a participant in many women’s forums, and having had countless conversations with professional and business women, I have heard hundreds of stories. This week, I met with a 31 year old woman who told me of having to “adjust” to what she felt was uncomfortable male behavior in her workplace.
This is still going on!
Some progress doesn’t mean something does not exist or does not require attention and action. I appreciate what both men and women are doing to bring attention to the plight of women in the workplace. I just get stewed when some people talk about our being past this dilemma. That is just as dangerous as those who perpetuate this problem.