Men's Reactions to Work Like a Girl: Inequality in the Workforce

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

January 23, 2017

In Work Like a Girl: Inequality in the Workforce we asked three women to recount their experiences with workplace sexism. The stories did not go unnoticed. We received numerous responses from women who were relieved to see they were not alone. Women are faced with these issues subtly, and otherwise, frequently throughout their careers. Workplace sexism is terribly common for women, which begs the question: How familiar is the opposite sex with the issue?

The following are excerpts from those experiences:

“As the meeting began, all of the employees were split into groups to play various board games as an icebreaker. Seated at a small table, with the game of Life in between us, we all took turns introducing ourselves—name, age, hometown, etc. After I introduced myself, I instantly received the following comment from the man next to me: “Saxon, does your mommy and daddy know you’re here?” – Saxon M., 26
“I was extremely uncomfortable. They talked about their girlfriends in a derogatory and demeaning way. Every other word was offensive. In business, it’s hard to feel like you’re supposed to roll with the punches and “be one of the guys.” I shouldn’t feel like I have to let them be degrading in front of me just so I’m not singled out as the bitchy prude who’s left behind.” – Elizabeth B., 24
“I was told by my manager that I was the most "bangable" hostess on more than one occasion, and a few of the cooks would ask me every day if I was still with my boyfriend, waiting for the day when I was no longer under a man's protection so they could start their pursuit.” – Sarah S., 25

It’s unfair to assume that all men are unaware of workplace inequality. So, we asked five men to provide us with their reactions to the stories:

Matt L., 26

Reading Elizabeth's blurb helps me realize that it’s never professional to expect a woman to “be one of the guys” regardless of her personality. It upsets me when I hear of men saying derogatory and demeaning things about women.

Flirting in the workplace is one thing. Having your manager, of all people, say you’re the most “bangable” person in the workplace something else entirely. Knowing that for four months Sarah dealt with comments like this makes me feel very uneasy.

Kyle B., 26

These stories are not surprising in the slightest. All it takes is a few minutes in an office to see this in full effect. It's been statistically proven that women are just as intelligent and capable as men. Yet, on average the majority of men will admit to finding a way to demean and discourage women. It's a sad fact, but our business environments and education systems do not teach equality as they should.

Ben H., 27

Saxon's story is blatantly horrid. Society not only made her feel like she needed to look old enough or confident enough, but then slams her with the inevitable: an agist/sexist jab, reinforcing her self-degradation and feeling of inferiority.

The "guys being guys" issue is an ever-present problem. I'm sorry that her feelings came after the guys’ need to speak out of turn.

The sexism of the restaurant industry is crude, crass, unwarranted and inexcusable. In any work environment, there should be no concept of circling over someone until they are without a partner to protect them.

Greg F., 25

It’s crazy to me that these things still happen. I hate it. As a guy in the workplace, I feel like it’s part of our responsibility to discourage this behavior, rather than to take part in it.

David W., 50

I forget that there are still companies out there that experience this level of sexism. The stories make me cringe and feel upset — this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. My top leader on my team is an extraordinary performer, and I’d follow her into battle any day of the week. I’m proud to work for a company with many female executives, including our CEO. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a much longer way to go to get rid of the huge gap that exists today.

Bryan S., 38

We need to learn to trust one another. To understand that we’re all learning and growing. And stupid comments can come out but it doesn’t mean we’re completely sexist (or racist). Outright sexual harassment on the other hand should be dealt with officially. Our society has already decided it’s wrong. It needs to be addressed from a management and organizational level for real change to occur. Sometimes it takes a sacrifice to make significant change.

We don’t have to fight sexism alone. Men who are aware of the issues are our best allies. Together, we can create work environments that are more equal. We can make sexism a more open topic, allowing women to be vocal about situations they feel uneasy about. Feminism has come so far; it just needs a steady push until we’re all on level playing fields. What do you think is the most important element of an equal workplace?

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