Question, asked in an anonymous facebook group :

<aside> 😒 How do you folks manage sexism or the bro culture at your company? My organization consists of about 10 women and 20+ men, and we're lead by our skip level who's also a male. I often feel ostracized by the language and the treatment we get from him. He jokes with the men in the organization, and takes their feedback more seriously when it comes to culture and processes (actually implementing their feedback, while a lot of feedback I've given has fallen flat) In addition, the language he uses really doesn't make me feel like I belong.. he often uses "Man" or "Dude" or "Bro" when speaking to men, and I don't identify with any of those, it makes me feel like I'm not welcome here... Finally he seems so much harder on women in the group, there's more grace given to men working in the organization. If someone misses a deadline, or they had a miss in their requirements in a product review, there is more grace given to them.


My answer:

If you're stuck in a toxic work environment and looking for survival strategies, here's what I've done. The key is to remember that this guy's whole deal is to make you feel unwelcome and like you don't belong. So, your new mission is to say "screw that" to this guy. This is a two-pronged approach:

  1. Build relationships and systems that make you feel welcome and like you do belong,
  2. Document the specific issues that you're experiencing.

For #1: Those other 10 women? They're your best friends now. If you don't have one, start a private group chat with them on Slack, Teams, or whatever platform your team uses. DO NOT use it to talk negatively about men. ONLY use it to build relationships. My group chat at my last job was called "goddesses drink water" and it was 80% about which La Croix flavor is the best, 10% about everyone's pets/children, and 10% celebrating everyone's successes - when a customer renewed, when a new feature shipped, etc. Celebrate them with your women colleagues. This will help you feel like you belong, build cross-functional relationships, and feel seen.

As an aside, your dude colleagues are not your enemies. They probably just don't notice this behavior but would be on your side if it were to be pointed out to them. Pick a few dude colleagues who you think would be especially sympathetic and try to build relationships with them. I sometimes test the waters by sending them work-related articles that I think they would like. Slowly start to bring up the pattern of sexism in tech until they finally ask you "do you experience this here?" - the key is to make them think it's their idea that you might be experiencing sexism. Then you can say "oh yeah, now that you mention it, I have experienced some here." Again, this will just help you feel seen and heard. MAYBE the dudes will call it out on their own but don’t ask for nor encourage it. You basically just want the background vibe of the team to be that sexism is happening.

On point #2: Start a file in a non-work notes app or Google Doc, etc. Write down all the issues you encounter and timestamp and screenshot them if possible. Feel the rage while you do this, and then, THIS IS KEY: let it go. You'll be weighed down by holding on to the rage, and that is what this guy wants. Do NOT give him the satisfaction. Write it down, feel the anger while you write it down, and then take a deep breath and get back to doing your job well. If you do good work, it will pay off in the long run. This file is also useful if you ever feel particularly gaslit or if it ever reaches a point where you need to tell someone else (HR if you must, a lawyer, your biographer, etc.)