Women and minorities have come a long with respect to workplace harassment and discrimination over the last several decades. Changing culture in the workplace and society in general, as well as the very real fear of lawsuits and bad publicity, mean that it's relatively rare for employees to encounter blatant discrimination based on their gender or ethnicity. However, this doesn't mean that women and minorities don't continue to face challenges in the workplace, only that those challenges are now more subtle.
Case in point: microaggressions. As defined by Merriam-Webster, a microagression is "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude towards a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)." These microagressions can have significant cumulative effects on the self-confidence and career prospects of these marginalized groups. Recently, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki discussed some strategies she has used in her successful career as a woman in the male-dominated tech industry to deal with male microaggressions, as reported by Rebecca Aydin in an article for Business Insider.
State Points Confidently
One of the most common microaggressions women face is having their opinions dismissed or being talked over in meetings. Stating opinions and positions assertively and confidently helps avoid this. It's much easier to dismiss the viewpoint of someone who seems unsure than someone who speaks with conviction and puts a stake in the ground.
Don't Hedge When Disagreeing
Similarly, when disagreeing with others, don't hedge on that disagreement. That's a form of "playing it safe," but it's also a sign of a lack of confidence and can easily be perceived as weakness by those willing to take a firmer stance.
Safety in Numbers
Wojcicki has used her position to bring on more female staffers. Obviously, not everyone is the CEO of a major company with that kind of authority in their favor, but in general having the support of other traditionally marginalized groups within an organization can help mitigate the risk of microaggressions.
Despite the name, microaggressions can have big impacts on employees who fall within certain marginalized groups. But that doesn't mean members of those groups are helpless. By using techniques such as those advocated by Wojcicki, anyone can take a step forward in their ability to take control of their career and professional destiny.
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