Anyone who knows me, they know that equality is a fundamental value of mine. That means equality for all. My fundamental belief has always been that everyone can achieve their full potential if only they have the right environment and someone who believes in them a little more than they believe in themselves. I know that has always been true for me.
So today on international women’s day I wanted to shine the spotlight on everyday sexism that still exists in our society, often creating conflicts in homes, communities and the workplace. I also see gender bias play out from both sides, so when I recently asked my Facebook group for examples of everyday sexism, I really wanted to hear from both men and women, from all ages, backgrounds and demographics. If you follow the #HeForShe movement, you will know that it isn’t a male or female issue, it’s a collective issue. So, read below the examples of everyday sexism (I left the work examples to the end because there were so many)- notice when you see, experience or even do it, everyday – and choose to make a change.
Being Mum or Dad
“When my child was sick and my husband stayed home to care for them, my colleagues (female) said, ‘aww what a great guy ‘ – yes, he is, but he is also their dad and co-parent”
“I looked after the kids through the day when I was on permanent nights, and my wife worked days. My colleagues actually took the piss for me being some kind of weirdo looking after my kids and 'letting' my missus 'carry on' working. It's supposed to be a partnership.”
“When I used to travel a lot for work, I'd get asked at least 5 times a day " who is looking after your children?!?" Most often by shocked women who clearly thought I was a terrible parent (in fact I don’t think a man ever asked me). When I answered, ‘their Dad was looking after them’ they'd say, ‘oh isn't he great?’ Offensive for him and me. He was perfectly capable and happy to look after his own kids. It got so bad after time that when people would ask, I'd just answer that my Labrador was looking after them then walk off! Sadly, the main judgement I received was from women not men”
“First time I took my eldest to change her bum in a shopping centre crèche area. When I went in there was silence and you could almost taste the loathing the women had for me being in 'their' space. As I left, the conversations restarted and distinctly remember "must be his weekend".
“When are you having kids? None of your business… I have also been told that I am obviously more interested in my career as I have chosen to not have kids. The truth is I simply haven’t met someone to have a family with, a timing thing, but career and kids aren’t mutually exclusive”
Soon after having a family I started getting some really odd questions like, "Does your wife work?" My wife has never been asked if I work.
I want to be an active Dad, you know, be involved yet I don’t understand why the raised eyebrows when men want to do more stuff at their kid’s schools, like reading mornings, helping out with fundraisers or PTA”
Don't touch me
“When I am touched or grabbed whilst on a night out”
“I work out and yet “I get, and have always got, comments and touching made about the size of my chest and the size of my arms before comments about the work I do. I generally just accept it now”
“the grief I got over 'why' I taught my eldest daughter to weld”
“We are an outdoorsy kind of family and loved climbing, hiking and building dens. My daughter said she wanted to be an explorer, just like Dora, and a relative said, oh that's not for girls. Thankfully she responded there are no such thing as girls and boys jobs!!! I have never seen my Aunt be so quiet with shock".
All you are good for
“When I was asked whether I was planning to give up my education if I found a serious boyfriend ... Yes, that really happened”
Left brain, Right brain
"I work in engineering and have often been the only woman in the room. I can't tell you how many times I have heard that I must be more left brained or that I think like a man. My brain isn't different, I just never had the stereotypes put on me when I was a kid. My Mum is a scientist and my Dad was an English Professor.
Be a lady (or gentleman)
“I was told to cross my legs; it's not lady like to spread my legs. I was wearing trouser and actually who cares?”
“When asked to look for something and not finding it, I’m asked did you look properly, or did you man look?"
“I drink pints. I am a woman. I have heard every jibe imaginable."
“I I still catch myself interrupting or correcting a factually incorrect statement made in a meeting by saying, "I am sorry but"..." It was only when a male colleague said that I should never apologise that I realised I had been gender conditioned and I am trying to retrain myself"
“I struggle to find hoodies in the colours my eldest daughter wants, so end up buying her 'boys' most of the time because she doesn't want pink, sequins and frilly clothes - she wants yellow, blue, comfy and usable. Her first mountain bike was a pain to find because every 'girls' bike was heavy as the Queen Mary and had a basket on the front and tassels... I could go on.”
“School uniform drives me mad. My girls school dictates that they must wear tights all year round - to protect their modesty and boys must wear trousers - no shorts... seriously?”
“Even a prime minister doesn't get away without sexist judgement. I remember Theresa May would often often be praised/criticised for what she was wearing - never happened to the male PM's”
Throw like a girl
"I work in a primary school and so I hear it all in the playground. Boys are generally the worst - "Cry baby, gay, sissy, throw like a girl". Parents still tell me their daughters are tom boys or girly girls. They hear these words and it sticks."
“From a parent point of view, it always gets me when my son hears from other kids that the crafts he likes are for girls! Fortunately, it doesn’t bother him and still does it and is allowed be as creative as be wants at home – but I worry how long this will last."
The world of work
“One of my stronger (female), clearer colleagues speaking in a meeting. People were half engaged.
I reiterate her key points and give her full credit and state that this underpins one of my less urgent initiative... and people start thanking me and asking me what next.
What on earth?”
“I was told to get out of business and back into the kitchen - I shit you not!"
“One client was cracking on to me so much, I didn’t even want to send him an invoice to remind him I was still alive and further “encourage” his behaviour.
I got a Male supplier to send it on my behalf so that I didn’t have to have contact. I stopped working with him.
It comes to something when you can’t even charge for your work because of sexual harassment!!!!"
“Why are you tying to join a mans army - idiots!"
“I was once told by a gym manager that my only use to him would be if I walked around in a bikini...or even better naked...to bring new members into the club. I was working 70+ hours a week for him and more than hitting all PT sales targets set by him....he just still wanted more."
“ I also found out (in a totally different job role in a different company) that a male colleague; younger than me doing less challenging work than myself, was being given cash bonuses (a male heavy, male dominated industry)"
“You’ll never have a career because you’re a woman.”
3 months later when I had higher customer sat than my male peers: “it’s easy for you because you’re a woman. All you need to do is flash a leg"
“I'm asked at least twice a month (at networking events mostly) if my husband helped me to start my business. Always by men. Other times it is phrased 'Do you have a co-founder?'. When I respond no, they look puzzled and ask who helps me to run the business & how do I know what to do. It's then frequently followed by questions about my education. (I did not go to University). I think the worst part is that they don't even realise how condescending they are being when they either tell me how 'proud' I should be of myself OR when they offer to provide advice or guidance (when frequently my business is bigger / has more staff than they do). I find I go through a range of emotions about it too! Sometimes I laugh it off but then think - actually why do I need to make light of this when you need to learn that it's not right. Other times it upsets me or gets me really mad."
“ Introducing myself pre interview to the candidate. He was very dismissive of me. Barely shook my hand. Didn’t make any eye contact etc. I took him through to the room where I was interviewing him (with another female) and sat down and he just started at me and then said ‘oh.... you’re interviewing me?’ His interview didn’t go much better bless him. He then tried so hard to convince us that he wasn’t sexist (and then moved onto racism as my colleague was Asian) that he ended up digging a huge hole. We did chuckle when he left.... bless him. he didn’t get the job."
“First job as trainee accountant. Male trainee taken on same time, lower grades than me. He was struggling so I was given the bigger jobs. Then I passed my first set of exams but he failed yet he was paid 50% more than me ( me £100 pw, him £150) I finally challenged the owner of the firm once I’d passed my initial exams so was now more qualified to be told that the other trainee “would never have babies but would need to support a family” .. I promptly moved companies."
“Only two months ago, went to price a renovation job for a client who stated he wanted to meet the builder. I explained the builder worked for me but still he insisted on meeting him... wouldn’t happen if I was a man. My builder went but stood by me and made it clear that I was to answer clients questions and then supported my responses.... my builder is an awesome "
“When the CEO decided to take my budget and give it to another department - meaning I couldn't deliver on my goals and objectives, I passionately and assertively challenged the decision, asking powerful questions only to rebuffed by him saying, "Is it that time of the month?"
““Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.”