Here are the things you definitely can’t tell your female colleagues
Gone are the days when workspaces were filled with men. Even though we women do not fully dominate our share of the workspace yet, we are aspiring to get there with workplaces becoming more and more inclusive. At this juncture, it is important for everyone, including men and women and people across other gender identities, to understand what are some ‘inappropriate’ things you shouldn't tell your female colleagues, even if your intentions are good;
So here goes the list.
Don’t tell them ‘how to behave’
Why do you always look angry? You should smile more! You are the boss, you have to be little aggressive.
One can never tell your female colleagues to be more aggressive or less aggressive. It is a common assumption that a woman needs to be more ‘manly’ if she is the boss or be gentle or ‘soft’ if she is working under you. Each individual, regardless of their gender, has their own way of handling things to arrive at the desired result.
The assumption that everyone should demonstrate the same kind of emotions, or handle things in a way it used to be handled in the past, has no base in reality. There are no stereotypes to follow and following the footsteps of chauvinistic patriarchal principles should be forever pushed behind us.
Don’t compliment on their physical appearance
You should wear more makeup! You look great in that dress! I love the way your hair smells!
Though your intention might be to ‘cheer up’ your colleague or to just compliment them in general, it may just end up sounding like you are reducing her to her looks and objectifying her. Additionally, you may come off as someone trying to make a move on her and also quite creepy, especially when you are mere acquaintances.
So if at all you feel the need to express that you appreciate your female colleagues, try appreciating their work. Try saying things like 'Good work' or 'Your ideas for the project were brilliant!'.
You have gained weight/lost weight
This again comes from a mindset absorbed from centuries of social conditioning, which pressurizes women to look good and ‘fit’. A woman is always expected to look perfect and the slightest gain or loss in weight is often met with criticism or stares. Women across platforms are subjected to such comments in their personal lives as well, therefore, you can refrain from saying those things and adding them to their professional lives.
A woman does not become ‘whole’ just because of her relationship or marriage. But as part of gender roles assigned to a woman, people still assume that is a ‘normal’ thing to ask. So even if your intention is not that and you are just asking out of curiosity, and not out of gender bias, ask yourself if it is something you would ask your male colleagues. If you won’t under the circumstances, its something you shouldn’t ask the female colleagues too.
Don’t use pet names
Good morning, sweetie! What’s the progress on that report, darling?
Unless you know your female colleagues well on a personal level too, it is not professional to use pet names. Experts recommend that you use either a first or last name in a professional setting, even if you know them personally.
Mansplaining is a strict no
I wouldn’t have done it that way. Let me explain that to you.
Mansplaining is when you explain something to a woman in a condescending manner. Unless you are the subject matter expert or more experienced than her, it is not right to take it upon yourself to ‘teach her’. Besides, it is advisable not to offer help unless someone asks you for it.
And just because you wouldn’t have done it that way or they don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Finally, avoid outright sexist remarks. For example, 'You handled that well—for a woman', implies that women, in general, are not capable of handling things. Adding qualities like that usually detracts from the compliment.
This is not an exhaustive list but just a beginner to help you become gender sensitive or keep your workplace healthy for women.
Despite all the warning signs in your head, if your curiosity gets the better of you and you end up asking a woman something about her personal life, pay attention to her reactions.
One should take into account and understand when they have crossed the line with regard to withdrawing eye contact or tense body language and other non-verbal cues.
As a rule of thumb, experts suggest that if it is a question you wouldn’t ask your boss, you probably should not ask your co-worker that either (regardless of their gender).
Don't be super sensitive
It's not as if women are porcelain dolls that you need to walk on eggshells around. We can handle bad news, you do not have to sugarcoat everything and you certainly don't have to treat women at your workplace like they are pristine. We can handle bad days better than most people, and with this sort of power comes the power of dealing with sensitive things at work too.
Never treat your female co-worker like she's a doll or that she may break with a little rough words. Treat her with respect, and if you have bad news that you need to convey, do it in a straightforward way. Don't be all, 'Even though you're a woman...' because this is what is frowned upon. Never treat women differently for their gender, this is not what we are looking for. Sentences like 'For a woman, you do this well' or 'Being a woman you're taking work too seriously', are all taboos considering how even women are merely coworkers in a space catered to encourage working and a working atmosphere. Women don't need to hear sensitive things from you just because they are women.
And even though there are different circumstances where gender does come in the way of things, in terms of respect and workload, women are not behind men.