4 Signs Your Boss Is Subtly Misogynistic

Misogynists hide in plain sight. Here are 5 signs to look for in your boss.

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Mardi Humphreys290
Mardi Humphreys
April 22, 2024 at 3:3PM UTC
“Did he really just ask me to buy Jim a birthday card and have everyone sign it AGAIN?” You may just finish this thought, then your boss asks you to plan the company picnic, too. Oh, and: "Nice dress you're wearing — matches your cute personality." 
It could be your imagination... or he (or she!) is misogynistic. To help you figure out, here are five signs bias is the underlying issue in your relationship.

1. You and the other women on your team are asked to be the office party planner... every single time

In addition to greeting cards, your boss asks you to pick up plates, napkins, cutlery and cake on your way to the office. Asking you to organize extracurricular activities once isn’t a big deal — but now planning the office holiday parties, happy hours and staff meetings are your responsibility.

What to do: You may enjoy being the office event planner, but beware: people don’t get promoted for housekeeping. Ask a male coworker to help (or take your place) with planning events. If your boss steps in and says your male coworker has more important things to do, that's misogynistic.

2. Your boss is a bully. 

They may yell at you in the hall for minor mistakes, belittle your contribution to the project in front of the team or curse in replies to your email requests.

What to do: Do not react during the incident. Immediately after, note what happened. Include date, time, what was said and/or done (think: who, what, when, where, why and how). Details not only allow you to recount specific unacceptable behavior, but also build a case for HR if necessary. After a couple of days, request three minutes of their time. Briefly recap the episode, respectfully describe how it made you feel, calmly tell them the behavior is inappropriate and the next time they have an issue, you expect it to be communicated in a professional manner. Thank them for their time and leave. If they refuse to meet with you or tells you to toughen up, they may be secretly misogynistic.

3. They habitually compliment you on what you’re wearing and it’s creepy.

Enough said.
What to do: Commenting on your form is bad form. If your boss makes you uncomfortable more than twice, pull them aside and politely ask them to stop mentioning your appearance. Saying, “That’s a nice jacket,” is one thing. But if they're always making weird comments — especially if they don’t notice what your male colleagues are wearing — they may be secretly misogynistic.

4. They describe female colleagues as cold, bossy or masculine, or say those colleagues should be more warm and nurturing.

What to do: The stereotype women are intrinsically caring and friendly still prevails; as does the assumption these characteristics can’t exist in a decisive and outspoken leader. This perception prevents women from promotion. Assertiveness is interpreted by upper management as a lack of fit with company culture. Diplomatically call out your manager when they say Jane the middle manager is bossy. Ask if Fred the middle manager behaved the same way, would they think Fred was bossy? If his answer is no, they may be secretly misogynistic.

This list is absolutely not exhaustive. Misogyny can be hard to identify. What signs have you spotted that identify your boss as secretly misogynistic?
Mardi loves talking about all things communication, marketing, and relationships. Visit her at www.mardihumphreys.com.

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