When The Boss Is Sexist: How Women In The Workplace Can Stop Lewd Comments

You can take action to stop sexist comments from your boss. An editor at a newspaper where I worked more than three decades ago asked me as I stood waiting at the newsroom copier if I had sex over the weekend.I thought about possible repercussions to my instinctive response, then  turned to him and said, “You’re a pig.” Several months later he became my supervisor and it did not go well. Eventually I moved to a different city with a better job.Recently “The Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett proved he had about as much charm as my former boss. Buffett may have $75.6 billion in net worth as chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, but his remarks on CNN showed he lacks sensitivity to women.According to Business Insider, “Warren Buffett made an inappropriate remark about women while attempting to describe the logic behind Kraft Heinz’s recent takeover bid for Unilever” in his interview with CNN.Buffett, one of the richest men in the world remarked: “Well, if a diplomat says yes, he means maybe. If he says maybe, he means no. And if he says no, he’s no diplomat. And if a lady says no, she means maybe. And if she says maybe, she means yes. And if she says yes, she’s no lady.”So how as women in the workplace aiming for a spot at the top of a company, do you handle a leader who makes sexist, misogynist remarks? And how do you make it stop?[bctt tweet=“How do you handle a leader who makes sexist remarks? And how do you make it stop? #womenleaders” username=“takeleadwomen”]You might not want to do as I did years ago and respond strongly in the moment with an insult, because you never know how this person may impact your career. But you do not have to take sexist remarks as women in the workplace without registering a complaint.A reader recently posted a question on the advice site,  Isthmus: “My boss can be a sexist jerk. He makes cracks about women that are supposed to be funny but are more often borderline offensive. He engages in a kind of sexually aggressive flirtatious banter with us female employees that has always felt more annoying than threatening — until recently.”The advice was this: “With women on the march across the world, now is the time to take action against your piggish boss. Don’t let the decent wages and benefits blind you to his unacceptable behavior. And it is unacceptable. Write down what’s happened, being as specific as possible with dates, places, times and witnesses to the harassment. Ask your co-workers to do the same, and enlist them in the resistance to your tormenter.”Sexual harassment has a range and can move beyond tasteless jokes and into harmful territory. The recent scandal in the U.S. Marines  over photos taken of nude female soldiers and posted on Facebook shows the depth of the problem. You can counter any action if you take notes, document, report.[bctt tweet=“Sexual harassment can move beyond tasteless jokes into harmful territory #ChangeTheWorkplace” username=“takeleadwomen”]Recently, according to The Guardian, “A female engineer at Tesla has accused Elon Musk’s car company of ignoring her complaints of ‘pervasive harassment,’ paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns.”Sam Levin writes in The Guardian, “The allegations of AJ Vandermeyden, who still works at the celebrated electric car manufacturer, paint a picture of a hostile work environment dominated by men where inappropriate sexual behavior is tolerated and women face numerous barriers to advance their careers.”And a 2008 gender discrimination suit against Sterling Jewelers, owners of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, now includes 69,000  women. According to the Washington Post,  250 former employees “allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed.“Many women in the workplace can unfortunately relate to a menu of inappropriate and illegal behaviors.DeAnne Bell writes in XOJane about a sexist boss she once had: “I’m not making excuses or justifications. These moments were definitely not high points in my career, and the struggles women face in the workplace are real. I’m only acknowledging that people have the capacity to change their behavior. Online forums aside, most of the sexism I’ve encountered in the workplace has been inadvertent or unconscious, which is less egregious, but can still be mentally exhausting and collectively takes a toll on women’s success. In fact, in a 2015 study, 100 percent of black women and 93 percent of white women in STEM reported they had experienced gender bias.”Bell adds, “In my specific case, I deal with sexism by picking my battles and treading lightly. It might not sound like the tactic of an equality warrior, but it’s the risk level I’m willing to take professionally. If it’s someone I think will be receptive to being confronted, then I will respectfully bring it up. If it’s a comment from someone whom I rarely interact with professionally, I take a deep breath and move on. And in every case, I strive to prove them wrong.”What I have learned over the years is that you consider the time, the place and the possible intention of the remark or the overture. You are not required to endure no matter your rank in the company. But you can shift the attention and make very clear this is not OK. And if possible, steer clear of that person and warn your female peers.If the comment is a joke and said in front of many people, it is acceptable to say, “I don’t think that’s funny.” If the person makes the comment to you alone, you can explain why it’s not funny, saying perhaps, “I don’t appreciate such sexist comments, so I would ask that you not make them.”It’s unlikely your boss has no idea he is being sexist, but just in case, give him the benefit of the doubt that he may be unaware how his comments are offensive. The intention is to change the behavior and make sure you do not have to work in a hostile environment.If this is a pattern, document the behavior and tell someone in human resources or a supervisor. And know that bosses know that no matter the rank, no one can get away with offensive language and sexual harassment. Most organizations have codes of conduct and breaking the norms has consequences. It is also illegal.Using the 9 Leadership Power Tools as designed by Take The Lead President and Co-founder Gloria Feldt enlist the strategies to make change and shift from power over something to the power to create change. Power Tool #9, “Tell Your Story,” acknowledges that you know what happens to you and that your story is your truth. Your truth is your power. Telling your story authentically helps you lead (not follow) your dreams and have an unlimited life.[bctt tweet=“Your truth is your power #leadership” username=“takeleadwomen”]Sexist comments are universal. Nineteen Indian women recently posted the comments they have received on Buzzfeed. One tech engineer writes she was told: “You’re way too pretty to spend all day indoors writing code.” Another wrote she was told: “Women of power in this company are either bored wives of rich men or frustrated single women with no lives.”Telling the truth about such comments has consequences.According to the New York Daily News, “A top engineering executive at Uber, Amit Singhal, is out five weeks after his hire was announced. According to a report in the tech blog Recode, Singhal failed to disclose that he’d left his previous job at Google because of a sexual harassment allegation.”Vandermeyden stood up to the Tesla harassment and told  her story. According to The Guardian, “’Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change, she said in a recent interview, her first comments about a discrimination lawsuit she filed last year. ‘I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.’”