Shirley Chisholm made a bid for the Presidency of the United States in 1977. During her New York Legislative service, it was said "she had faced much more discrimination because she was a woman than because she was black"
Thankfully, for women who choose to work or need to work, many things are better for females than they were 40 years ago. However, there are some obstacles women need to face when it comes to equality and respect, especially in the workplace.
Here are nine mistakes you can avoid making:
1. Not demanding equal pay
The Lilly Ledbetter act of 2009 was put in place so women could demand equal pay, and yet, studies still show women are paid an average of 0.77 cents for every dollar a man is paid.
Know what you are worth and ask for it.
2. Dressing for style instead of the job you want
A recent Forbes article states: "Appropriate dress has never been an issue until just the last few years. It's not just Gen Y job applicants who come to their job interviews dressed like they're going to a club or to the beach."
Revealing clothing, glow in the dark hair or jewelry that weighs more than 50 pounds also doesn't belong in the workplace. Call attention to yourself for your good works, not your outfit. Strive to earn your respect based on your performance, not your costume.
3. Networking like you're still in high school
Hanging with the girls and gossiping during lunch should have ended with high school graduation. Now that you're in the workplace, network with those who teach you, enrich you and respect you in return. See the value of your co-workers and choose to spend time indulging in intellectual stimulation rather than coffee break gossip.
4. Failing to say no and set healthy boundaries
If you have a hard time saying no, plan to be the one cleaning the breakroom daily and watering the office plants while the managers meet. The best part of the female gender historically has been the beautiful role of caregiver. However, there's no reason those tasks should be delegated to you just because you are a woman. Take turns with your coworkers to keep things running smoothly. Don't identify as the office mom, unless you want to stay in that role.
Yes, you should dress up for the Christmas party ... just dress appropriately to earn the respect you would like to have from co-workers. Also, the office is not the place for frat house antics or drinking contests. We've all heard about those epic urban office myths - Unfortunately, some are true. Try to stay out the office party history books.
6. Lie, cheat, steal or worse!
There are some boundaries that should never be crossed. Alex (name changed for privacy) shared the following story, "I once worked with a wonderful woman who passed away suddenly leaving a large family behind. Another co-worker set up a Go-Fund-Me for her children. We later learned the co-worker kept the money that should have gone to the kids and spent it gambling and shopping." Even though Alex's co-worker didn't break any rules at work, or get fired, she still damaged her own reputation and lost respect. If you make a mistake, own up to it and repair it, quickly.
7. Failing to know your rights or complain
Sandy was pregnant but afraid to tell her employer for fear she would lose her job. But when her employer offered her a promotion, Sandy finally admitted she was pregnant only to be passed over for the promotion.
Sandy definitely had grounds for a grievance and yet avoided conflict. Why? All too often, fear of conflict can perpetuate on-the-job abuse, including things as insidious as sexual abuse.
When you stand up for yourself and you will also be standing up for the rights of others - If you are struggling, it's likely you're not the only one.
8. Not asking for what you want
Do you want to work from home, only part-time? Do you wish you had a raise? Are you looking to receive credit for all the extra work you've been doing? Present a reasonable case for what you are asking, make your argument and risk being told no.
9. Complaining to your co-workers without looking for a solution
On Purpose Consulting compares gossip to cancer; "Gossip is not helpful as it enables individuals to continually talk about other people with no accountability - often times team members will become pseudo-connected through this negativity. In other words, they become fused 'as friends' through the common interest of criticizing another person. ...Gossip tends to create cliques of individuals while it excludes others. This cancerous behavior will undermine team dynamics and create a more negative workplace."
If you have a complaint, think of a solution. Don't create office relationships based on gossip, create them based on finding answers. When you take a complaint to a boss, also take a possible solution.
Getting the proper respect in the workplace (and all other aspects of life) is not out of reach. Just remember the words of Shirley Chisholm; "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh