Opinion: How do women feel about gender bias in the workplace

In honor of Women’s History Month, we talked to women leaders about their experience as leaders

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Opinion: How do women feel about gender bias in the workplace

Rosie the Riveter, courtesy of Wikipedia

Rosie the Riveter, courtesy of Wikipedia

Rosie the Riveter, courtesy of Wikipedia

Rosie the Riveter, courtesy of Wikipedia

Sophie Siegel, Editor in Chief

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Paul Ryan was the former Speaker of the House, not Mitch McConnell. 

One year ago, I attended a Democratic Socialists meeting in Palm Beach County to talk about starting a Young Democratic Socialists chapter at FAU. A man asked my boyfriend if he was the person in charge. He was surprised when my boyfriend pointed to me and said, “she’s in charge.”

I am sure if I was a man, I would have been the one referred to as “in charge.” Something I learned as an activist is usually, the man is going to be the one taken a little more seriously.

According to Pew Research, women have said that in a male-dominated workplace, it is harder to get ahead.

Morgan Sachs, a conservative activist and Washington D.C. director for March for Our Rights, runs an organization that advocates for less firearm restrictions. She has also experienced her fair share of gender bias in leadership.

Morgan Sachs speaking at March for Our Rights. Courtesy of Sachs’ Facebook.

“There have been times when men underestimated me and my ability to pull a project or task together but I have always exceeded expectations,” she said.

Sachs was previously the president of the Turning Point USA Chapter at FAU, where she later landed a job with the National Rifle Association. She said she went on an activity with her company to go to a shooting range.

“A lot of the men there assumed I did not know what I was doing and had not shot a gun before but it was the other male intern who never shot before,” Sachs said. “I think it definitely surprised a lot of these tough NRA guys that a girl had been to the range before but the guy intern had never even used a firearm.”

According to Vox, more women identify as liberal. Thirty-seven percent of women identify as conservative, while 48 percent of men identify as conservative.

Currently, there aren’t many women that identify as Republicans in congress, according to the Chicago Tribune. This year, that number went from 23 Republican congresswomen to 13.

Emirya Fanaeian, a trans woman of color who brought the March For Our Lives movement to Utah, said she experiences gender bias on the daily.

People still get angry and have reservations when they see a trans woman of color asserting my ideas and unabashedly putting my ideas to the forefront,” she said.

Fanaeian also feels that society has made it hard for trans women, but feels it has been getting better for women like her.

“Society has built this tiny box for women of color and it has told us that we are not to transcend the boundaries of that box, and when we do there is a lot of push back. But women like me, women all over this nation are indeed transcending such boundaries in order to get things done,” she said.

Ermiya Fanaeian speaking at an event for Equality Utah. Photo courtesy of Fanaeian’s Facebook

Fanaeian also believes that gender bias is very real and there is a difference of treatment between her and her male colleagues.

“My male colleagues can go about their work cavalierly and people in our board rooms will still unequivocally trust them simply because they have a charming smile and a suit on,” she said.

She also believes that identity plays into this.

“I have witnessed firsthand that women, especially trans women of color, that have the qualifications, expertise, and experience still have all the social and cultural systems working against them in the professional fields,” she said.

Former editor-in-chief of the University Press, Emily Bloch said, “Leading the UP as a young woman taught me so much about the industry and leadership …. But it also showed me really quickly how much harder women had to work compared to men.”

Emily Bloch’s headshot. Courtesy of Bloch’s Twitter

Former candidate for SG President and current president of First and Proud, Neasha Prince, felt gender bias made her sad.

“It comes with dealing with people that are ignorant, dealing with people that are keen on micro-aggression, dealing with people that are racist but doesn’t believe that they are racist. There’s a lot to unfold within the territory of being diverse,” Prince said.

Prince said being a woman of color impacted how she was viewed as a leader, but even broadened her view of the leadership world.

“People would treat me in a way that is not directly related to my leadership abilities. I am a capable person yet this individual decides to treat me as if I’m not; it only comes down to what that person thinks of me,” Prince said. “Often times, the color of my skin seems to have a factor in their analysis of me. If anything, it made me a better leader.”

Neasha Prince (left) and her former running mate, Leona Robinson (right) Photo courtesy of the ticket’s GoFundMe page

Mary Beard, a professor who teaches at Cambridge University told PBS that the impacts of men beholding power over women is, in turn, “shutting them up.” Beard later says that in society that power is held in speech, a power that a man holds over a woman.

It’s no surprise, as women have a long history of being told to shut up.

Not only are women silenced, but women are also ignored. When women report sexual harassment behavior from male colleagues, they are often told to “stop complaining,” and are shamed, according to HelloGiggles.

A moment of national attention when this happened was when Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Mitch McConnell during the vote for Jeff Sessions, where she wanted to speak about Sessions. This coined the term “Nevertheless, she persisted,” as she continued to speak.

Advice for women, from women

As a woman leader, I am exhausted in fighting to make sure I have the same level of power as a man.

I attended a panel at the College Media Conference where five women journalists told us that if we aren’t someone’s assistant, we don’t ever need to act like it and to call shit out as we see it.

It is important to point out that women in leadership roles are making strides.

In Congress, women make up about 20 percent and in the Senate, women make up about 23 percent. And 39 of the 110 women in Congress are women of color. This year, in light of #MeToo, we have seen a surplus of women running for office.

Nancy Pelosi is currently the majority leader of the house, replacing Paul Ryan due to the 2018 midterm election when Democrats became the majority of the house.

In the 2020 primary, there are currently 6 women running to be the next president. In addition, a black woman named Maya Rupert is leading Julian Castro’s presidential campaign.

While things have changed, there is much to do for women. It’ll be women that change that. For me, changing the nature of the workplace by having men understand that being a woman shouldn’t be equal to “weak,” or “silence.”  

That also means men becoming allies for women. I attended a media conference in New York a few weeks ago. I went to a panel about women in the media. The women on the panel praised the men that attended and mentioned it’s important for men to be the allies for women, when in the workplace, women are the minority.

Sachs said that “it is important for men not to underestimate women, women should try not to underestimate themselves as well.”

It’s all similar for women across the board.

“People are going to deem us as unlikable at times. However, it’s up to us to believe in ourselves and empower ourselves,” Fanaeian said. “Powerful women are needed in leadership positions, and speaking from experience I know that self-empowerment is the strongest tool to have in leadership.”

Fanaeian had advice to men by telling men, “when women lead things to get done, so allow those powerful women around you in your everyday lives to start leading without you questioning them. And please don’t take credit for their work either.”

Bloch’s advice to those working in a field with men? “Being a female student leader taught me to seek truth and report, but also take no shit.”

Prince believes it starts with discussion to improve anything.

“I don’t think we are doing enough. We need to talk more. The only way we can learn and improve is through conversation and the willingness to learn from other perspectives,” she said.

Breaking down the views of women in the workplace

A research study breaks down views of men and women leaders in the workplace

In a study done by Pew Research, women have said it has been harder for them than men to get ahead in their workplace. Women are seen more on the basis how nice they are and how good they look. Men, on the other hand, are seen as more professional and tough.

We broke down the gender bias, here:
Men’s top qualities:

33% Honest/Morality

23% Professionalism/Financial Success

19% Ambition/Leadership

19% Toughness/Strength

18% Good work ethic

Women’s top qualities:

35% Physical attractiveness

30% Empathy/Nurturing/Kindness

22% Intelligence

14% Honest/Morality

9% Ambition/Leadership