Sexism in the workplace


KE design by Lukas Freund KE photos by Anna Jewett, Lauren Beh, and Ashley Ortizcazarin

Sexist stereotypes come from many places. While some of these stereotypes stem from the truth, they are generalizations and they don’t excuse people who assume women don’t know anything about the subject at hand. Women can face sexism, even in fields in which they are comfortable; they can experience situations where they are talked down to because of their gender. “I know a lot about cars. I grew up with an engineer dad. He taught me how to change the oil, change a tire, how to take care of my car. So when I go to bring my car in, I hate it because I get treated like I don’t know anything about cars because I’m a woman. That’s definitely one of the places I’ve felt like ‘you’re treating me differently because I’m a woman,’” math teacher Ms. Mary Seppala said.

One common stereotype is the perception that women are over-dramatic, which can dismiss the validity of women’s emotions. Some people believe that every person should be able to share their emotions freely without the fear of judgement. “When a woman shows any kind of animated personality, they can be accused of being emotional. It gets old,” Senior High Assistant Principal Ms. Mary Andersen said.

On top of being seen as emotional, women are often over-sexualized and berated with images of what a perfect body looks like. For some, these images make it hard to become con dent in themselves. “I feel, as a woman, we are being exposed [to] a very different image of what a woman should be. Think about the cover of magazines; these are contradictory images that we are exposed to almost on a daily basis. [As] a female, you have to nd your way and ignore the demands and expectations because they make no sense,” French teacher Madame Frédérique Toft said.

The only thing you can do is to keep fighting to level the playing field. Encourage girls to develop their voice.

— Mrs. Maura Brew

Along with the over-sexualization of women comes the issue of sexual harassment. Harassment in the workplace is a diffcult subject for people to deal with. BSM luckily doesn’t struggle with this, but in many jobs women can be trapped by it. Speaking up about harassment could cost a woman her job, but staying silent results in harmful and potentially dangerous e ects on her mental health. “When I was a teacher starting out, I certainly was a victim of harassment. Did I do anything about it? No, because I wanted to keep my job. It caused stress. It caused discomfort. When you are a woman and you are a victim of harassment, you end up being more upset with yourself because you feel vulnerable, but also you are reminded that you do not have power. It’s a very frustrating place to be. You don’t have the ability to do anything with that frustration,” English teacher Ms. Maura Brew said.

In many jobs, women experience discrimination through the earnings gap. However, because of standardized salary schedules, there isn’t the same barrier here at BSM. “In education, a teacher is paid by years of experience. I make the same amount of money as another teacher who is a male [and] who has the same years of experience. In other work forces it’s definitely [the case that] females are paid at a much lower rate, but here it’s not that big of a deal. For me, it’s not a big deal–for other women; it definitely is,” science teacher Ms. Jennifer Roushar said.

An additional stereotype is that women care for the family, and our society struggles to stray from those stereotypical bonds. While women attempt to be seen as equal, some nd that they are held to unrealistic standards when it comes to what is expected of them as mothers. “The workplace generally does not take kindly to the disruption [being a mother] brings. Women in the workplace are seen as more disruptive because families get in the way, children get in the way, pregnancies get in the way,” Brew said.

Maternity and paternity leave are also topics of debate. While it is important for parents to stay home with their kids, it’s also hard to pressure companies to continue to pay a person for an extended leave. “As a mother, I know how important it is to have enough time to heal [physically, and] to be with your baby…I think companies should allow you to be gone for a certain amount of time…what companies are required to do is not just a black and white answer. What is black and white is moms need time to heal and babies and moms need to have some time together,” Annual Fund Director Ms. Mary Lenker said.

While sexism is still a part of our society, it needs to be combated, and one way to do so is through supporting girls from a young age. “The only thing you can do is to keep fighting to level the playing field. Encourage girls to develop their voice,” Brew said.