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Master push-backs for subtle put-downs

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

Even top women executives still face inequities that can lead to missed opportunities. Likely as not, these slights are unintended, but exclusion from “the club” remains one of the harshest penalties for a leader.

Take Theragenics CEO Christine Jacobs. She’s left out of the loop when male board members adjourn to the men’s room, where they continue to talk business.

“It’s life,” says Jacobs. But women execs can make life fairer with these strategies:
  • Lose the drama. Jacobs recently met an inappropriate remark with silence, later bringing it to the chairman’s attention. Others did, too, and the offender was reprimanded.

  • Build your base by praising female colleagues’ accomplishments and strengths to the most powerful people in the room. That costs nothing, and women find it easier to do than tooting their own horns.

  • Push back gently. When you’re asked to order lunch for the group and you’re the only woman present, smile and wink, saying “I’ll order lunch if you get dessert.” Then, hold him to it. Or, if your organization offers only golf as the free executive perk at its annual retreat, request other options.

  • Be the gracious guest. Married men still feel squeamish about inviting their female peers to dinners or parties. If you’re invited, make a point of talking with your colleagues’ significant others. Bring a nice gift. But draw the line at running into the kitchen to help.

  • Let them walk in your shoes. If you hear a sexist comment, calmly reply, “How would you feel if somebody said that to your daughter?”
—Adapted from “Sweating the small stuff,” Joanne Gordon, Pink.

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