Sexism still persists and undermines women’s careers. It is unfair and unbelievable that individuals still believe they can take advantage of women. It takes confidence to face and, ultimately, derail these deep-rooted, societal notions. It takes confidence to help others wake up and rediscover the truth: that women are just as, if not more, strong and capable as men.
Here are three ways you can take a stand on sexism and leverage the opportunity to advance your career:
1. If you see something, say something.
If you are or see someone being subject to sexism, call it out. If you have been insulted, make it clear you do not appreciate that comment. If you did not receive an invite to a client dinner or were passed over for an opportunity, ask why. Activist Maggie Kuhn said, “Speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.” Let others know you expect to be treated with respect, and stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. If you feel nervous speaking your mind, it’s a sign that you are on the right track.
Actress Mila Kunis called out a sexist producer in an open letter. When she said “no” to posing half-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine, a male producer reportedly threatened Kunis that she would “never work in this town again.” Despite the producer’s threat, she continues to work in Hollywood.
In the letter, Kunis wrote that women “are conditioned to believe that if we speak up, our livelihoods with be threatened; that standing our ground will lead to our demise.” Kunis encourages those who have influence to use your voice to help women “feel a little less alone and more able to push back for themselves.”
2. Nevertheless, persist.
Sexism can chill your efforts to achieve your goal. Don’t freeze. Keep moving towards your goal. Persist.
U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren persisted when she was silenced in the Senate. Senator Warren was debating the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General. While quoting statements from civil rights leader Coretta Scott King about Sessions, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used an arcane rule to find a way to silence Warren.
The acting chair of the Senate would not allow her to continue in the debate. Warren moved into a nearby room and continued reading King’s letter to a much bigger audience: the Internet. The Senate “took away her microphone and handed her a megaphone.”
If you have been silenced, have the temerity to keep going. If people ignore your comment, say it again. If a man interrupts you during a meeting, tell him in a matter of fact way that you are not finished. Don’t let others shut you up. Be persistent such that they can’t ignore you.
3. Play the game, and take advantage of stereotypes.
Some still see women as weak or not as capable as men. Poker player Annie Duke took full advantage of this stereotype when she was playing in the World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions. She won the tournament, knocking out eight men, the best players in the world, because she sensed the male players didn’t think she could win.
Duke took advantage of the “stereotype tax,” which is “when a negative stereotype that others have about you works to your advantage.” The male poker players were so “emotionally invested” in Duke being a woman that they believed there was no way she could win. They were blind to the truth and misjudged her abilities.
Let your worth speak for itself. Seek opportunities and instances where you can reveal your strengths, whether it is courting a new client or handling a business crisis. Your secret weapon is your true ability. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of it, show your strengths and let the cards fall in your favor.
You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control your actions. Call out sexism, persist and take advantage of stereotypes. Take back your strength. You will survive and even thrive.
Avery Blank is a millennial impact strategist, women’s advocate, and lawyer who helps others to strategically position and advocate for themselves to achieve individual and organizational goals.