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Sexism in the Workplace

Being a feminist in the workplace

Author:
Office Professional Occupation Business Corporate Concept

By Lauren Ewing

This summer I am at my first real adult internship. Although I am in college and have done seminars and attended lectures at other universities for fun, I’ve never had a learning experience like this before in my life.

To me being a feminist means being confident in yourself and especially as a female. However, I have constantly been self-doubting myself. Normally some self-doubt is not a bad thing. It makes me focus and double check my work, however here I’m constantly trying to strive for perfection. And this time this attempt of perfection is what is causing my downfall. It is making me slower on tasks, and I’m making a bunch of errors.

Now you may be thinking it is the environment I’m in that is causing me to be this way – after all, my internship is with a prestigious law firm – but it’s not. My internship is with a great group of people. My boss is not only female and super stylish, but she is also a strong leader and is always on top of her game. It can be stressful sometimes in the office, and I have never seen her lose her cool. Truly she is an inspiration to me. Also, my other co-worker is the sweetest person ever. She helps me catch my mistakes and makes sure I’m on the right track. So trust me this is not an environment issue.

So what is making me so doubtful when it comes to my internship? After much reflecting I realised, I haven’t found a way to be a feminist in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong being a feminist is part of my identity and something that is uniquely part of me. I have no problem being assertive or calling people out when needed. I can easily spot inequality and speak up. I am part of organisations on my campus that try to improve the conditions of young girls in my community. However, somehow when I’m there part of my identity got disconnected.

To combat this issue, I went to the books. Currently, I am reading a great book called The Art of War for Women. Yes, the art of war finally has a version just for women and it is amazing. There is a ton of workouts in the books where you can analyse all your strengths and weakness as well as areas you would like to improve upon. This book is incredibly helpful as you become ready to transition into the working world.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned so far in reading this book is the power of knowing yourself. When you truly know yourself, you know what to do in a situation you may not have control over. The author, Chin-ning Chu is great at breaking down Sun Tzu’s intricate work. She also gives practical advice for the business world and how to compete with men even when it is a male dominated field. Chu’s explanation of Sun Tzu’s work also allows for more feminism in the workplace.

Another great read is Women Don’t Ask. Although this book is a little older, I find it to be true in every sense. Not only is it about the women in the workforce, it is about women in general, we simply don’t ask for things. After reading this book, I found myself constantly wanting to be more involved with my life. I wanted to participate more in class and ask for more leadership opportunities.

After looking over information and reminding myself of the lessons, I have learned over the years that I shouldn’t hold myself back even if I think I’m unqualified. I learned that it was okay for me to feel like I was under-qualified. This was an internship, an opportunity for me to grow and to ask questions. This opportunity wasn’t the place for me to know everything.

Dear Young Women

Author:
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By Beatrix*, Guest Blogger

Dear Young Women – we aren’t welcome in Politics. That’s why there needs to be more of us.

I’ve a bit of a reputation for being positive. Relentlessly so. I can be a bit of a whirlwind; pitching up to events, finding the funny and re-enthusing tired activists. People think it’s a skill, and in part it is. But it’s also a way of coping with the fact I live and breathe a world where women – and especially young women – are not welcome.

I could recount the instances of sexism and ageism I’ve experienced in my 10 months working in Politics; the male colleague who flirted with all the subtlety of a brick, asked me out and when I said no ignored me for the best part of a week. The other male colleague who took such delight that I couldn’t translate a piece of legislation that he felt the need to tell the office next door. And the next one after that. And then bring it up at the group meeting later that day. Then there was the time an older woman sent a personal attack via email to an entire committee because she didn’t like that someone ‘in their twenties’ was in charge of social media. The male boss who told me to smile no less than 12 times in one day.

The list goes on. It’s relentless and it’s exhausting but Politics for many young women is a catch 22. The more you want to leave, the more you realise it’s so important to stay. The less you feel welcome, the harder you have to fight to make your voice heard.

There are beacons of light. There are incredible and strong women who have experienced all of this and more yet still stand for selections, elections and for their beliefs. It’s stopped being scandalous to hear of the women who are elected receiving rape and death threats now; it’s expected. Unfortunate perhaps, but not a surprise. Yet these powerful women stand strong and fight for what they believe in – sometimes – nay often – at the expense of their own wellbeing.

I wish I could make this blog inspiring. I wish I’d overcome a challenge that meant I could put out an authentic call for more young women to become involved in Politics, but I can’t do that in good faith. What I can do is leave you with three nuggets of wisdom for those who do:

  1. Stick together. Have each other’s backs.
  2. Know that what you are doing is really fucking important
  3. Speak up. I know it isn’t easy, but if we all chip away at this giant, ugly, macho wall then we can and we bloody well will knock it down.

*This name is a pseudonym

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