The majority of women in a new Pew poll report their workplaces are free of gender bias. Surprised? According to the survey, most female employees report they are paid equally to men and have the same opportunities for advancement.
Interesting results given women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men and still hold only a small percentage of C-suite and board positions in major companies. Clearly sexism still pervades many workplaces, but is it somehow going unnoticed by women?
Sexism can be subtle, and perhaps it flies under the radar for many women. After all, organizations don’t circulate corporate memos demanding women receive less pay than their male counterparts. When a top executive position opens, there is no disclaimer that only men should apply. Indeed, even organizations are often naive as to how sexism permeates their organization. But sexism’s subtlety isn’t the only explanation for these surprising survey responses.
Sheryl Sandberg (and other recent authors) who have blamed women for their own lack of advancement at work have also, inadvertently, led women to deny sexism. In the current climate, acknowledging women’s issues advancing in the workplace has become synonymous with acknowledging women’s weaknesses. Women aren’t doing well at work? They must not be leaning in, they’re consumed with perfection, or spending too much time with their kids. In order to keep their own self-esteem intact, it’s natural that women would start denying that anything is amiss at the office. No sexism here – we’re doing just fine, thank you.
In reality, women aren’t to blame for their own lack of progress at work. Lack of leaning in, perfection and issues of family aren’t the only obstacles to women’s advancement. Sexism still impacts many women and denying its existence only lets it fester.
Clearly, some sexism-free workplaces exist, and if you work in one, congratulations. But if you detect sexism, don’t pretend it’s not there. Open and honest discussion is the first step to eradicating sexism. And, if you do complain of sexism, and someone advises you to lean in – tell them that’s exactly what you’re doing.