7 Ways to Be a Feminist in the Workplace
By Karin Eldor
No matter how much progress women have made in the workplace, it still feels like we have a long way to go. The good news: there are ways for us to let our feminist flag fly at the office and make an impact.
Just look at the momentum that was created with this past January’s “Women’s March,” with marches taking place all over the world. Many men also came out to march alongside the ladies (both young and old).
But before rocking your “The Future Is Female” T-shirt to the office, keep the implications in mind: in many ways, the feminist movement has become political and can be polarizing. For better or worse, feminism has become a misunderstood word: I think part of it is dispelling the notion that being a feminist means being “anti-male.” We need to banish this belief. Feminism at its core is the belief that women are entitled to the same rights as their male counterparts -- there’s no need to read between the lines here!
So in honour of International Women’s Day, here are some ways to showcase your feminism in the workplace -- and do it proudly.
Why is this important?
Gender inequality is an age-old issue. From the blatant gender gap in Hollywood to blatant sexism that tends to occur in male-dominated fields, there is a lot of work to be done.
Not only is the gender pay gap a chronic issue, but the divide is even more blatant in Canada.
Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada, spelled it out in an article in the Globe and Mail: “The global pay gap was about $4,000 on average between men and women, and the Canadian pay gap was just over $8,000.” (Yikes.)
So let’s do our part by making an impact in Canada and embracing modern feminism.
Here are 7 ways to start:
1- Assert yourself in meetings
If you have something to say, speak up. No need to be rude or disruptive though; wait your turn, raise your hand, and sit or stand tall. Just make sure that what you’re saying can be backed up in order to make your point stronger.
2- Ask for what you deserve
If you have a performance assessment scheduled with your manager and feel you deserve a pay raise, make sure you have the gravitas and proof to give your request more weight. Head into that meeting with a list of your achievements and if you can, back-up your positive performance with numbers and stats. (For example, that you initiated switching to a new supplier, which has saved the company 20% in expenses, or how you generated a certain percentage of new business.)
3- Be a mentor
Volunteering your time as a mentor in your company or in a mentorship program in your community is a great way to give back while spreading your own wings. Speaking with young talent might even open your eyes to fresh ways of working, and giving back -- especially to aspiring female professionals -- will give you extra motivation and simply feels good.
4- Request constructive feedback
Show that you’re open to growing and developing your skills by reaching out to your manager and asking for constructive feedback. It shows that you’re open to hearing about what you can improve upon and have the confidence to confront being critiqued, head-on.
5- Walk the talk
If you are requesting a pay raise or promotion, make sure you put your money where your mouth is. Focus on your own performance and don’t get caught up in office politics and gossip. And in the name of women worldwide, do not cry at work. Hey, we’ve all been there (yes, I too have been guilty of this!), but if you feel the tears about to appear, compose yourself, leave the room, and go for a walk outside or head to a bathroom stall. Nothing can undermine a woman’s professionalism more than shedding tears at the office -- no matter how stressful or emotional things can get.
6- Educate yourself
If you feel that you’re being passed up for opportunities or your work is not getting you the merit you deserve, learn about your rights. Disclaimer: be careful about going to HR and filing a complaint about your manager. Remember that in general, the human resources team is looking out for the interests of the corporation, so tread carefully.
7- Join a movement & make a change
There are several organizations geared towards increasing opportunities for Canadian women in the workplace; if you’re motivated to make a change, join the conversation and get active. For example, Moving the Dial is an event organized to give women the opportunity to network with tech leaders and celebrate their contributions to the ecosystem. There are also several organizations aimed at increasing the number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Get involved!
Word of advice: if you do become active in these movements and organizations, make sure to not be disruptive at your workplace. Between your social media feeds and after-hour conversations, you’ll have the opportunity to share what you’re involved in. During work hours, you’re best off focusing on your tasks, or you’ll risk being perceived as a distraction.
This is a real issue society is still struggling with, but we have a come long way and will continue to persist and soar. By educating ourselves, getting involved, and helping each other out, we will rise together and shatter that glass ceiling.