Still the 1940s? Sexism in the workplace

Despite strides towards equality, sexism is still alive and well in many workplaces. Some of these stories will make you shake your HR head.

Still the 1940s? Sexism in the workplace
It seems some industries still have problems accepting women into the workplace. The UK-based website Everyday Sexism featured these unfortunate examples of sexism in the workplace.


Aviation
I'm an airline captain. I don't even notice all of the everyday sexism any more. It occasionally gets pointed out to me by my first officer and I have to tell them it happens all the time. Passengers think I'm cabin crew, engineers I talk to ask if I've told the captain yet, dispatchers invariably talk to my (usually male) first officer before he directs them in my direction. When passengers on the airbridge can see into the cockpit they actually point and stare at me – it's exhausting. There isn't a tremendous amount I can do to counter it, apart from having a sense of humour about it and being bloody good at my job.
 
Medicine
I am a female doctor working in a public hospital. I am constantly reminded by patients and other hospital staff that being a female doctor is not yet accepted by society. The first thing a patient says when they see me is "Nurse, can I get another sandwich?", "Nurse, can I get another blanket?" or my personal favourite, "Are you a nursing student?" There have been several occasions when I have spent over 40 minutes with a patient, explaining to them that I am their doctor and running through the investigations and treatment I am going to provide, and all I get in response is: "OK, but when do I get to see the doctor?".
 
Veterinary medicine
I am a vet (working solely with horses), and working in a traditionally male-dominated industry is very difficult. I experience sexism on a day to day basis: "Last year when he had this done, he didn't need sedation, but then it was a male vet that saw him". When I turn up to assist in delivering a foal: "Is there any chance you can call a male vet – I just don't think you will be able to do this as a girl." I could stay here all day writing the various comments I have received.
 
Mathematics
I am a mathematician working in academia. One day I found out that one of my colleagues would frequently check with a male colleague to verify whether what I had just said (about university regulations or department politics or whatever) was true. He never does this to any of our male colleagues (at the time I was the only woman here). This is the same guy who was on a hiring committee with me. When we received a letter of recommendation praising a female candidate, he told me "The writer obviously only wanted to promote women."
 
Science
While visiting one of my farming clients I was shown a plant and asked if I knew its identity. The farmer was interested that feral deer were jumping over 6 foot high fencing to get into his paddocks to eat this plant. I told him its scientific name (I didn't know its common name) and why the deer found it so palatable. He was surprised that I knew the answer and responded with "Fancy a slip of a thing like you knowing that!" I am a professional ecologist with a strong interest in botany and was on the property in that capacity. How did he think I could do my job if I couldn't even identify common pasture species!
 
 
Have you witnessed sexism in your workplace? Share your stories in the comments section.

 

Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up-to-date with the world of HR. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from HRD Canada.

Recent articles & video

Worker spikes colleagues with LSD because they’re ‘too uptight’

After Disney-Fox merger, thousands brace for massive job cuts

Should employees whistle while they work?

In Canada, men still earn 25% more than women

Most Read Articles

Should HR ban workplace dress codes?

The benefits and pitfalls of a 'four-day work week'

How can HR build resilience in the workplace?