Inclusion and Diversity Note - So what is ‘every day sexism’ and why is it an issue?

14/09/2021

Every day sexism is the consequence of gendered comments, descriptions of women and relying on outdated stereotypical views about women. Every day sexism occurs with small comments, gestures or quips. Every day sexism is readily and easily spotted when you know how it works. Just ask a woman. She is likely to tell you many examples. One being the experience of women barristers who have had the indignity of a judge saying ‘thank you gentlemen’ at the conclusion of a hearing, leaving them wondering whether they are invisible. Their male counterparts remain silent.

Every day sexism occurs when women are interrupted more often than men or subjected to ‘mansplaining’. It occurs when women barristers are assumed to be solicitors or clients. It occurs when a judge asks a woman if she is ‘a Mrs, Miss or Ms’. McKinsey produced this video that illustrates the point – it is 5 minutes worth watching Addressing unconscious bias - YouTube

More significant forms of every day sexism occurs when women have to prove they are as competent as men or when women’s professional expertise is questioned.

Generally, such comments or views will not give rise to a formal complaint or sanction. Indeed, to ‘call out’ such comments may make the situation even worse for women. This does not diminish the adverse impact on women.

So why it an issue? The experience of every day sexism is negative and at times demoralising. Everyday sexism tells you about the culture of workplaces. Sexism may be deliberate and targeted adverse treatment of women. However, it is more likely to arise because of unconscious bias and imbedded stereotypes about women being inferior.

Being aware of every day sexism is relevant to how we treat women be they colleagues, judges, mediators, clients and witnesses.

Ask yourself - what assumptions do you make? What language or descriptions do you use to describe women? Could every day sexism impact on the fairness of a trial, the treatment of victims in court or the conduct of a mediation?

So next time you say ‘thanks guys...’ Think again.

For further information - see Male Champions for Change We-Set-The-Tone_Eliminating-Everyday-Sexism.pdf (championsofchangecoalition.org) and the 2019, Council of Europe Guidelines for preventing and combating sexism: measures for implementation.


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