This week’s Feminist Fridays post is another installment of the How Do You Deal series. Because there are certain issues in life and in feminism that are tough to talk about on our own, the HDYD series allows many voices the opportunity to share in these discussions, making it easier for us to talk about our beliefs, opinions, and feelings. Each month I ask contributors how they deal with an issue and we each share our thoughts on the matter. This month we are talking about injustice in the workplace. Here are my feelings on this topic:
I have not experienced gender-based injustice directly in a workplace setting because I have worked exclusively as a freelancer, nanny or preschool teacher in female-dominated settings. I have, however, experienced other sorts of injustices in my work-life. My best advice for dealing with injustice of any kind is to call it out when you see it. Shedding light on what is fair and what is not is the first step in finding resolution.
Now let’s hear what my contributors had to say about injustice in the workplace and feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments.
This is really difficult for me to answer…I can’t think of any big thing I’ve dealt with, but when I’ve seen someone get bullied or be left out, I have tried to help. Some situations I don’t feel comfortable pushing myself into, but others I do feel a need to say/do something. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to accomplish things at times, but if I feel strongly enough about something I will take action.
I haven’t worked much in my life. I have been in school for most of it, always living in my own world. For the limited time I have worked, I have not faced injustice directly due to my race or gender however, I have been told stories from close friends who have. The one thing I tell them is to always self-advocate for yourself and stand up for what you think is wrong.
I feel incredibly blessed to have always had strong female mentors at each of my jobs, so I’ve never had to deal with any work injustice due to sexism. For the rest of life’s little surprises or when my coworkers are driving me bonkers, I strive to keep a level head and truly think about the consequences of my actions and even my words. No one wants to be the office gossip or the girl who can’t keep it together when the copier goes wonky. Don’t forget that it’s so much harder to shake a bad work reputation than it is to gain one.
This one is a bit tough for me. I don’t have to deal with a traditional workplace because I work as a nanny, in the family’s home. The biggest way I deal with injustice is when the kids get into disagreements and I help them to work it out in a fair way. I feel it’s an important part of my job to keep things fair and just for the kids as much as I can. At the same time we do live in an unjust world and they understand that no one always gets what they want.
I’m lucky to not feel injustice at my current place of work. Women talk during meetings and share their ideas just as much as men. To me, that’s always felt like a good sign; that everyone feels comfortable enough to have their voice heard. The only injustice I see is the damage women inflict upon each other: snide remarks, talking behind each other’s backs, rude side looks, etc. I stay away from all that as much as possible!
Admittedly, I still don’t know how to deal with this. I’m timid by nature and don’t like confrontation, so I sometimes have to literally force myself to speak up. It scares me and makes my voice come out embarrassingly shaky, but I feel that’s the only way to correct a wrong: to bring focus onto it and offer a way on how to remedy it. I always try to bring it up in a tactful way too, because I wholeheartedly believe people will want to work with you rather than against you if you do things with kindness.
In my first part-time job there was a manager that used to make completely inappropriate comments towards me and another female colleague. I found the only way to deal with his behaviour was to not give him the time of day and make him aware that I did not enjoy his company and commentary. If this didn’t work I would also comment back to the guy in question asking him to explain his jokes as I ‘didn’t understand them’ to make him feel awkward (I found a good time to do this was in front of other colleagues as it would increase his embarrassment level). Whilst ideally we should have reported his behaviour (and I definitely recommend this), I genuinely think that none of the other managers would have cared as they never played by the rules anyway, so found these tools useful until I waved goodbye forever to the worst employers I ever had!
Luckily, I don’t have a lot of injustice in my current workplace (except for those damn dirty dishes in the sink!), but I see it all around me. The tech industry is filled with injustice, and I mostly deal with it by raging with other like-minded folks and trying to do my part to make things better. I find that dealing with injustice is one part rage and one (hopefully bigger) part action. The most important thing is to find your friends and allies and work together as a community to make things better.
Choose the safest time and safest approach for you, and speak up. I’ve worked with some pretty progressive folks, but language that (maybe even unintentionally) is racist or misogynist still sneaks in. How we talk about individuals and groups shapes how we and others around us perceive them, and it’s important to me not to let these things slide. I approach these conversations with the assumption that the person on the other side had no ill intent, but just needs a reminder or some more information. This is usually successful, but even when it’s not, I feel more at ease for having spoken up.
So now YOU tell us: How do you deal with injustice in the workplace? Do you relate to anyone above?