Visible Women

Can we stop making sexist assumptions about women’s status at work?

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Megan Murray
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A Twitter thread has exposed how often women are presumed to hold a lower paid position than her male colleagues. 

Many women – particularly young women, women of colour, and those working in male-dominated fields – have experienced being mistaken for a more junior member of staff at work.

Don’t believe us? Jennifer Hudson, a world-renowned actress and singer, recently revealed that a removal man once assumed she was her male driver’s assistant. Similar assumptions are made about non-famous working women, working in fields from science to journalism and economics, every single day.

The prevalence of this common but infuriating issue was recently highlighted in a thread on Twitter. Nicola Bartlett, political correspondent for the Daily Mirror, took to social media to voice her exasperation about what she described as the most sexist comment she’d received that week (“so far”).

“Phone up a male MP and say I’m calling from the Daily Mirror,” Bartlett wrote. “He asks me who I’m calling on behalf of. Erm myself a political journalist.”

Bartlett’s story clearly hit a nerve. Within hours, droves of women had joined the conversation, each with their own tale of sexist assumptions to share.

Many female journalists shared similar stories of being misidentified while working at newspapers.

“Used to get this all the time on the Mirror when I was features editor and answered the phone,” said one woman. “‘Can you put me through to the features editor, love?’”

Another said: “I remember as a local reporter when people would phone to have a go at me for a story I had written, then be surprised I was a woman. My name is Jennifer. It said so on the byline.”

Other women working in fields from the law to the military also shared their stories, proving that no industry is safe.

As women’s stories continued to roll in, men backed them up by sharing their own observations. 

Two men said that they frequently witnessed people make assumptions about the professional status of their co-workers.

This Twitter thread only outlines what we already knew. Unfortunately, Britain currently holds one of the worst records for gender equality at work, with a myriad of factors – from the pay gap to female presence at board level – skewing the balance between men and women. Until workplaces are more equal, it seems like women may have to continue shutting down sexist assumptions about their status, qualifications and abilities.

Or, you know, people could start wrapping their heads around the idea that women are capable of holding senior professional positions. Just a thought.

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign is dedicated to celebrating women’s success and empowering future generations to follow their lead. See more from Visible Women here.  

Main image: iStock

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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