Identifying and eliminating everyday sexism

Identifying and eliminating everyday sexism

Office for Women Leadership
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Male Champions of Change. We set the tone. Eliminating everyday sexism.

The Male Champions of Change (MCC) released a report to assist workplaces to eliminate everyday sexism. We Set The Tone recognises the fact that many people struggle to understand why this issue is important and explains why we should all care about eliminating everyday sexism. Everyday sexism causes harm to all staff, not just women. This includes impeding women’s career progression and preventing men from equally engaging in child rearing.  The benefits of a workplace without sexism are significant, including broadening of the talent pool and harnessing a more diverse range of views that modern workplaces require to achieve success. The report empowers all colleagues to take action, identifying the fact that individual voices do make a difference in eliminating sexism in workplaces.

MCC outlines three steps that employees of an organisation can take to eliminate sexism in the workplace.

  1. Everyone needs to know what they are dealing with, including understanding what sexism looks like in their workplace and the impact it has on both staff and the organisation.
  2. Everyone needs to find ways to get their colleagues to see and acknowledge sexism. This includes challenging entrenched attitudes and processes that enable sexism to exist.
  3. Everyone, but especially leaders, needs to set the tone by creating a workplace where staff are empowered to call out sexism when they see it.

For many staff sexism is obvious, but all of us may be surprised by just how acceptable everyday sexism is. The report outlines what everyday sexism looks like in the modern Australian workplace.

  1. Insults masquerading as jokes. Think twice before making remarks and jokes based on gender – often they are sexist.
  2. Devaluing women’s views or voice. Men should think before they act. Why do you need to interrupt a woman in a meeting? Do you actually need to explain that information to her? Why didn’t you agree with her until your male colleague said the same thing? Why did you presume the guy was in charge?
  3. Role stereotyping. Don’t worry, John will clear up the water glasses following the meeting. Jenny can park the car in the basement – it’s just so tight down there and I don’t want to scratch my boss’s car. These sentences shouldn’t sound weird.
  4. Preoccupation with physical appearance. This includes comments about body shape, size, physical characteristics and clothing. Opinions or comments by others about any of these things are sexist.
  5. Assumptions that caring and careers don’t mix. Having kids or caring for family members have no bearing on a person’s ability to further their career. Equally, a person does not have to explain their decision not to have children to you. Assumptions based on caring responsibilities impact both men and women and are sexist.
  6. Unwarranted gender labelling. My manager Jenny is so bossy. My manager John is very assertive. These sentences mean the same thing but only one is positive.

Read the report and work with your colleagues to make sure your workplace is sexism free.