As a woman in the workforce, you’ve probably been frequently interrupted, dismissed, told to be less emotional, and told to smile more. You might have been paid less for doing the same work, or struggled to come back from giving birth without paid parental leave.
What Hillary Clinton experienced Monday night felt so familiar that it could have been a debate-watching game: points for each time you’ve been treated that way by a male colleague. We know she felt frustrated and disrespected the way we do. But, clearly, Clinton has written the book on dealing with sexist crap. Watching her not just withstand Donald Trump’s attacks, but use her preparation and experience to her advantage, was downright awesome. She has been a role model for our generation for years, and now she’s laying out a master class in taking on workplace sexism.
Running for president is like asking the country to hire you for a job, and the debate is your very public interview.
Clinton was interrupted more than 50 times during the debate. She didn’t let it frazzle her, and she didn’t cede the floor. She stayed cool, calm, and focused. When a male colleague interrupts, don’t let them. Stay focused on your point and keep talking. Eventually, he will take the hint.
Explain Things to the Mansplainer
Trump repeatedly tried to mansplain things to Clinton with comments such as, “That’s called ‘business’ by the way,” and with his inaccurate recap of the stop-and-frisk court case. She wasn’t having it. She corrected the record, making his misunderstanding clear, and kept demonstrating her detailed and superior comprehension of the issues at hand.
Take Hillary’s lead: be assertive, promote yourself, and be confident in your work.
It might feel uncomfortable, but talk about your accomplishments. When being attacked for “not having the stamina,” Clinton recounted the many ways her experience has clearly demonstrated her stamina throughout her career. “As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire…or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.” Take Hillary’s lead: Be assertive, promote yourself, and be confident in your work.
Call Out Sexism
During the debate, Trump was asked to clarify what he meant when he said Clinton didn’t have “a presidential look.” Instead of apologizing, he doubled down. That is sexism, pure and simple, and when you see something that blatant, you have to call it out, Hillary-style.
When you’re a witness to sexism in the workplace, have your sisters’ backs — we’re all in this together.
If you’ve ever been sexually harassed, you know how disempowering it can feel. It is all of our responsibility to be there for others in that situation, especially those without the privilege you might have or the status to feel comfortable speaking out.
On Monday night, Clinton shared the story of a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. When she won the beauty pageant, which Trump had just purchased, he called her “Miss Piggy,” for putting on weight and then, “Miss Housekeeping,” in a reference to her Venezuelan ethnicity. Machado has said she was terrified of Trump, who was effectively her boss. But Clinton had her back. So, when you’re a witness to sexism in the workplace, have your sisters’ backs — we’re all in this together.
Confidence is key — own your well-deserved place at the table.
Lack of equal pay and paid family leave are systemic ways that women are still held back in the workplace, and Clinton uses every chance she gets to advocate for policies that would make the workplace fairer and more equitable. She did so again last night. One of the most effective ways to move us toward legal change on these policies is for voluntary adoption of them. So, put on your brightest colored pantsuit and make it happen in your office.
Be Prepared to Be Patronized
When you’ve experienced success, some may not think you deserve the respect of your title. At the beginning of the debate, Trump patronized Clinton when he asked her what she wanted to be called: "Secretary Clinton, yes? Is that okay? I want you to be very happy." Her response: “Yes,” and a look that said, I was one of the most accomplished secretaries of state to serve our country, and it’s laughable that you think I don’t deserve that respect. Confidence is key — own your well-deserved place at the table.
Women are still held to a higher standard in the workplace. Let’s face it: We have to be doubly prepared for any situation.
Women are still held to a higher standard in the workplace. Let’s face it: We have to be doubly prepared for any situation, and often need to be the most qualified and articulate to be seen as equal to the men. Turn it to your advantage. Clinton took time to prepare for the debate, unlike her opponent, and it showed. It also gave her the chance to deliver one of the best lines of the night: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And…I prepared to be president.”
Strong Women May Encounter Whining Men
The irony of bullies like Trump is that, while they pride themselves on being tough, they have thin skins. Trump was clearly unable to deal with the attacks Clinton lodged, and he complained at length about the negative ads she’s running. The loudest guys are often the weakest, and will often go to great lengths to hold back strong women who intimidate them.
We still have a lot of work to do to make sure women’s voices are heard in the workplace, and the responsibility shouldn’t fall only on women’s shoulders. Someone needs to write a guy’s guide to ending workplace sexism, but Donald Trump only provides a long list of don’ts.
Even if we stay calm and focused, articulate our accomplishments, stand up for other women in the room, and are better prepared than our male counterparts, even then, sometimes the most qualified, deserving women don't get the promotion. So, between now and Election Day, we need to do everything we can to make sure Hillary Clinton gets the promotion she deserves, and that she has the opportunity to be a role model for the next generation.
Sandra Fluke is a social justice attorney based in Los Angeles. The views expressed here are her own.
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