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Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace

Kristi Hendrickson, PhD | Seattle, WA

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No. 6 — November | December 2018

"Yes, your workplace is sexist. Even if it's not visible. And even if you work for yourself."

Battle Tactics is a relatively new podcast that first aired its trailer on May 29, 2018, and has since produced eight 30-minute episodes (as of this writing). Hosts are Jeannie Yandel and Eula Scott Bynoe, a white woman and a woman of color, both from the Seattle area. The podcast was inspired by the 2017 book Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett. The author is not otherwise associated with the podcast.

Several of the topics considered include the gender wage gap, manterruption, imposter syndrome, men as allies in combating a sexist workplace, and institutional policies that contribute to a sexist workplace. In each episode, the hosts present the topic and share their personal experiences or the experiences of guest interviewees. The most important aspect I find is that the hosts include and emphasize action on our part while acknowledging the challenges. As the podcast title suggests, these are battle tactics—things we can do to combat the specific issues that can make our workplaces sexist.

In one episode, expert guest Ruchika Tulshyan begins, "I read somewhere that people are more comfortable talking about sex than they are talking about salary." A conversation on the gender wage gap begins. It's hard to look at your pay and figure out that you're getting paid less because of gender. The Pew Research Center releases data every year to quantify the pay gap between men and women and reports around 77–80 cents to the dollar for the same job.

There are several known contributing factors to this gap. Implicit gender bias in the workplace is one factor that we likely cannot control. Some evidence suggests that lack of negotiation is another contributing factor. For example, a Harvard Business School study found that if a job ad didn't say that salary was negotiable, women tended to not negotiate salary but male applicants would.

The way in which the gender pay gap is stated tends to hide another layer of inequality. The 77–80 cents value includes all women—white women and women of color. And that average value is compared to white men—only white men. Presenting the data this way tends to hide that fact that white women on average make more than black men.

In a capitalistic nation, it makes sense to close the pay gap for all. More equal pay in the workplace would increase the gross domestic product, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report. Several tactics were discussed that we can employ to help us all get paid what we're worth, including negotiating your pay and advocating for yourself.

Negotiation skills were the primary topic in another episode. Several studies conclude that women negotiate only about 10% of the time, while men negotiate 50% of the time. This episode included several strategies on negotiation and how to build your negotiating skills. First, do your research; simply put for women, find out what your white male counterpart is making. The podcasters present several strategies for asking, without directly asking. Recall the earlier comment on how difficult it is to talk about salary? Another strategy is to ask during the negotiation, "Is this the best deal?" Many women are uncomfortable doing this in a workplace setting. Practice by calling your cable company and asking if you can get a better deal. Continue practicing by doing this twice a year.

If you battle with being taken as seriously as your male counterpart, Keita Williams, Founder and Chief Strategist of Success Bully, suggests checking your speech patterns. Does your speech pattern tend to end in upward intonation? Do your statements sound like a question? Observe yourself speaking in a meeting or to a colleague. If you find that you do have this tendency, practice when you're alone to undo this speech pattern. The upward intonation can be a signal to the listener to question your authority and to minimize the impact of whatever you're saying.

"Didn't I just say that?" How many of you have experienced being in a meeting where you propose a solution, to which you get no response, and moments later a male colleague says the same thing, which is suddenly the best idea ever. Amplification can be your battle tactic: plan ahead by getting a (probably) female co-worker to repeat your (unheard) idea at the meeting, while giving you due credit.

My summary in this review skims the top of these issues; please listen to the podcast yourself to appreciate the depth of research and exploration of each topic, and the first-person stories that illuminate the variety of topics related to sexism in the workplace. New episodes are created and released approximately every two weeks.

The easy banter between the two hosts makes this podcast easy to listen to. The high-quality productions include well crafted storytelling and address compelling and timely topics that are well researched. I particularly value the inclusive perspectives of white women and women of color, as reflected in the hosts and by their choice of interviewees and experts, as well as in the analysis presented.

You can find this podcast at the NPR podcast directory, on Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. At their website, you can also subscribe to their newsletter and submit your comments and suggestions to contribute to the ongoing discussion.

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