Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Do this to push back against sexism at work

meeting.jpg

From punitive dress codes to inappropriate jokes and maternity discrimination, reams of women in modern Britain face sexism on a daily basis.

And while it’s up to organisations and our wider working culture to combat this insidious problem, we won’t quash it by calling out bias alone.

We have a collective responsibility to “dig deeper” in overcoming culturally ingrained gender prejudice, argues Lila Ibrahim, chief operating officer at education-focused technology company Coursera.

Ibrahim began her career as a computer hardware engineer in the 1990s – where, as she explains, “I was not only a woman in a male-dominated field, but also at least a decade younger than most of my colleagues”.

And she says one thing really helped with fielding assumptions about her gender and age.

Alicia Florrick

"You deserve to be here. Embrace your unique strengths"

Writing in Fortune.com, Ibrahim says she learnt to embrace the very differences that made her stand out in the workplace.

“When I started that first computer hardware job, I tried to hide my youth,” she writes. 

Lila

Lila Ibrahim

“I pulled my wild, curly hair into a tight bun, wore fake glasses, purged my desk of personal photos, and smiled as little as possible. But burying my personality under a facade of adulthood (or what I thought was adulthood) made me miserable—and it didn’t work. I still had to respond to snide comments like, “Have you graduated from high school?”

But later in her career, when she was deployed to Intel’s consumer department in Japan, Ibrahim decided to take a different approach.


Read more: Darkly funny illustrations capture sexism faced by female leaders


“As a young American woman in a foreign country, I couldn’t avoid standing out… I knew I was valuable to the division, and instead of focusing on why I was the oddball, I focused on the advantages that my unique background offered,” she says. “I asked questions fearlessly, contributed fresh ideas, and built strong relationships.”

“Bias feeds on insecurity,” she continues. “We all have the impulse to hide our differences. But if you’re ashamed of who you are, you’re silently telling the world that you agree with stereotypes. Hold you head high and remind yourself that your differences are an asset, not a liability.”

Hear, hear.

Read more tips from Ibrahim on Fortune.com here.

Images: iStock and Rex

Related

viral text.jpg

Badass woman schools male co-worker over sexist promotion text

paddle boarding.PNG

Cancer survivor becomes first woman to paddle board the Channel solo

iStock-537307070.jpg

This woman's incredible advice to millennials has gone viral

Latest...

Here’s what to do if your work space is driving you to distraction

Do you function better amid the chatter of colleagues?

12 Oct 2017

Awkward job advert goes viral, and a lot of people are concerned

“Yikes, there are so many red flags in one posting…”

by Kayleigh Dray
04 Oct 2017

How women are blocked from speaking out about maternity discrimination

The problem is still rife – but many women are banned from talking about it, say experts

by Moya Crockett
03 Oct 2017

How to recover after crying in front of your colleagues

It happens to the best of us. Here’s how to bounce back

by Moya Crockett
02 Oct 2017

Why a creative side project could benefit your health and your career

We're on the brink of a ‘creativity crisis’ according to experts

by Helen Brown
29 Sep 2017

This is why we should be doing 3-hour workdays, according to experts

Print this, laminate it, and give it to your boss

by Helen Brown
29 Sep 2017

Career experts reveal the one important trait that will help you excel

Three tricks to harness the mindset that leads to success

by Helen Brown
28 Sep 2017

These are the best careers websites to find the job of your dreams

Is a change on the cards for you?

by Megan Murray
25 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

How to use Instagram to boost your career (and land your dream job)

It’s time to make your Instagram account work as hard as you do…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Sep 2017