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Toss out sexist assumptions

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Sexist assumptionsMarjorie Kaplan, former head of Animal Planet and TLC for Discovery Communications, describes an example of sexism early in her career, plus the kind of constant noise that still plagues aspiring women.

Early in her career, her team walked into a conference room to meet the client. Six guys were sitting at a conference table, half of them smoking cigars.

Kaplan’s boss walked in well ahead of her, she had no time to introduce herself, and she wasn’t introduced.

“I was probably 25 or 26, and my boss was significantly older,” Kaplan says. “I think they all thought I was his girlfriend. I sat in that meeting the whole time with these guys smoking cigars, practically with their feet on the table. That was so humiliating. He didn’t do it maliciously, but it was kind of casual sexism. I resolved that wasn’t going to happen again, and I have told people that you need to be comfortable challenging those assumptions.”

What assumptions, exactly?

“The assumption that a guy who walked into a room wearing a suit was smart and able, and a woman was ‘to be determined.’ People in the room had to be disabused of their assumption that the man would be capable and intelligent, and it had to be proven that the women was as able. It was just kind of a feeling you had all the time.”

— Adapted from “You have power. Don’t be afraid to use it,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times.

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