Sense & Sensitivity

Time to Speak Up Against Sexism at Work

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work in a male-dominated workplace. In college, I got used to being one of the only women in the room and thought it'd be similar in the workplace. Yet my first job involves male co-workers quieting down significantly when I enter a meeting, or cracking inappropriate jokes when they think I'm not listening. I am nobody's boss, so I don't have much power in the office, but I wonder if I can grin and bear it until I have a few years to put on my resume. Is it worth my while to mention something to these men who won't change? -- Solo Female, Syracuse, New York

DEAR SOLO FEMALE: In 2016, I want to believe that it will make a difference if you speak up. You might start by speaking in a light-hearted manner the next time one of them cracks an inappropriate joke, and remark that you really don't appreciate that type of talk. You could go one step further, if you feel it is warranted, and say that so-called "locker room talk" is offensive, and you would appreciate that they stop. If the men do not stop, report them to human resources. Be clear and specific with your report. You will have to name names and recite what you heard or observed.

Pay attention to what the human resources representative says in this matter to learn if you will get any support from your company. That person's reaction will cue you in to whether it is worth it for you to speak up, ignore them and excel at your job anyway, or to plan your exit. This may sound harsh, but unless you are ready and willing to fight a legal battle, if you do not have the support of senior management and you cannot look past the rude behavior, you are left with few choices.

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