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When women speak in the workplace

Earlier this year, the New York Times published a piece co-authored by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about the different ways that men and women are generally treated when they speak up in the workplace. The piece opens with a story about the producer of television hit “The Shield.” When the producer noted that two young women writers were not contributing during story meetings, he encouraged them to do so. They knowingly replied that the producer should observe what happens when they do.

When the young women began speaking up, they were consistently interrupted, verbally bulldozed, shot down or otherwise had their ideas commandeered by male writers. Sandberg and her co-author Adam Grant note that this experience is not unusual for women in the workplace and it is the result of experiences like these that many women conclude that they must refrain from speaking up in the same ways that men do.

It is often difficult to place one’s finger on the ways in which gender discrimination remains present in workplaces nationwide. Unless a female worker is being blatantly harassed, paid differently for similar work or is subjected to pregnancy discrimination, it can feel like gender discrimination is a presence without being fully definable.

The next time that you are present in a meeting made up of several individuals from both sexes, notice the ways that the conversation progresses. Take note of this progression in a meeting involving members of management. Over time, you may be able to detect discriminatory patterns that may be unintentional but are nonetheless present. It is by both noticing and addressing inequities both large and small that discrimination loses its hold in any given place of employment.

Source: The New York Times, "Speaking While Female," Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Jan. 12, 2015

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