To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, HuffPost UK is considering the practical habits you can adopt to support women in your everyday life. Read more in the series here.
It can be the small things that create the environment in which sexism grows – behaviours that go unchecked and unchallenged but make the workplace a place where women don’t thrive. “The only way to make a change, to stop these small acts, is to call it sexism and challenge it,” argues Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs, for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). “The news of President’s Club exposé shows that whilst for many years such behaviour was shrugged off as business as usual; it’s now not.”
Wilton is leading a campaign by the CMI intended to call time on casual sexism. ‘Broken Windows’, which launches today [6 March], urges everyone in the workplace to report incidences of sexism at work. It’s a response to research by the CMI which shows that 85% of women and 80% of men have witnessed gender discriminatory acts at work – and its aim is to challenge behaviours that many women will recognise. These include actions such as interrupting women in meetings, describing female colleagues as “pushy” or “shrill”, and not putting women forward for promotion on the assumption they will have children. These actions create a non-inclusive culture and prevent progress on the gender pay gap.
Six years ago, Laura Bates started the Everyday Sexism project in a bid to highlight how women experienced casual sexism on a daily basis. She started by calling out sexism on Twitter (#EverydaySexism) and the campaign now operates in 18 countries, has received media coverage around the world and spawned a book. The hashtag has been used hundreds of thousands of times. “The project has grown bigger than I ever anticipated,” Bates told HuffPost UK in 2015. “I hoped 100 women might share their stories; now we have 100,000 from people all over the world.”
It’s one thing to be aware of instances of casual sexism, but it’s another thing to know how to call it out. If you are a leader or a manager, this is the time to step up, Wilton argues, and make tackling gender discrimination a priority. Make sure you have clear policies and practices, and call out and challenge unacceptable behaviour in your team.
You can also tackle everyday sexism by joining the wider conversation, she says: “Last year, the #MeToo campaign became emblematic of the bravery of women in speaking out against injustice and, in doing so, opening the floodgates to the unseen, darker side of working culture.”
Pointing out sexism in everyday life can include calling out businesses and brands on social media using the hashtag #EverydaySexism; sharing your story online by submitting your personal experience on the Everyday Sexism form, or even just tackling friends in conversation.
Find out more about the Everyday Sexism project and read other women’s experiences here.