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No To Non-Professionalism

Enough already. I’ve written about sexism in the workplace, and I thought the situation might be improving—how wrong I was. A recent study of women sheds new light on the sexism that women face at work, and it’s even sadder for women in sales.

It’s time for sexism to stop. Would you recognize sexism when it’s happening? It’s not so easy to do.

Some women start even farther behind

The New York Times reported on a study released by the University of Chicago about social attitudes and the role of women in the workforce. The study showed that location, where a woman is born and where she chooses to live as an adult, has a huge impact on her work and pay. Researchers found that “a woman’s lifelong earnings and how much she works are influenced by the levels of sexism in the state where she was born. A woman born in the Deep South is likely to face a much wider economic gender gap than a woman born on the Pacific Coast, even if both women move to New York as adults.”

Are you curious how where you were born fares on the sexism scale? According to the report, “Sexism is highest in the South and Southeast and least extreme in New England and the West.” It varies in the Midwest with it being relatively high in Indiana and Missouri, and low in Iowa and Minnesota.

It’s even grimmer for women in sales

Then there’s the study by Lucidchart about The State of Women in Sales. It found that women are already starting at a disadvantage if they work on commission, and are earning 23% less in commission and salary than men ($60,987 for women vs. $75,000 for men). The study also found there’s a huge discrepancy in gender perceptions as one in four men in the sales industry say women in sales don’t experience any bias, even though 67% of women feel like others underestimate their knowledge.

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Here’s what sexism looks like

You had better sit down because the following quotes might shock you. The Lucidchart study cited the comments of female salespeople, and one woman said, “My boss told me that he makes his wife stay at home and that I should stay at home as well since my husband could take care of me.” Another said: “I’ve been told male direct reports make more than me because they have a wife and kids to support.”

The bosses who told the women these things are Neanderthals who have no business managing people. I confess, I did have to deal with a corporate policy when I found out I was being underpaid. A senior leader had to move mountains, but he did, and I got the salary I deserved. Yes, it’s hard to know who is being paid how much, but that’s why negotiating your starting salary is so important. Glassdoor reports women are less likely to negotiate their salaries than their male counterparts. This has to stop.

You can and should ask your interviewer, “Do you pay men and women for the same work equally here?” Watch for any hesitation. The manager might not even know because he never had to think about it. I always asked, “What does the top performer get paid?” I always assumed I would be that person.

There’s also a problem where male clients will sometimes talk over women. I’ve only experienced this from a former manager who had been demoted. I attributed his discourteous behavior to his having to compete with me as an equal, and he was not happy about it. I didn’t recognize it as sexism at the time, so I missed an opportunity to address it.

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Act to stop bad behavior

You can’t change where you were born, but you can become more aware now that you know your history impacts the sexism you’ll experience. You can ask management if pay is equal for men and women at your company if you’re past negotiating your salary. Your awareness of wrong behavior is the first step to stopping it.

You may think it’s someone else’s job to deal with sexism at work. I don’t believe that. While you don’t have the obligation to end the problem, you do have the obligation to start doing something about the problem. It’s an ongoing project, too. In 2015, Salesforce was one of the first companies to take a public stance on pay equality. The company says addressing pay equality is an ongoing process.

And you are also part of the problem if you allow sexism and pay inequality to continue. Think about it. What’s one thing you can do to stop sexism at work? Will you commit to act on it now?

RELATED: ​How to Succeed in Business: Hard-Earned Wisdom From a Woman CEO

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