I read this article recently about why things are so bad in silicon valley. (Why is Silicon Valley so Awful to Women) and it really made me think. Even the article itself, with the line, “she typically wore the kind of outfit—jeans, hoodie, sneakers—that signals coding gravitas,” seemed a bit prejudicial.
I hate it, you hate it, but it still happens. There are those times when you KNOW you are being judged based on your gender.
You probably should not respond like I normally do - in a fit of righteous indignation. I have a bit of a temper, and I am not always very good at keeping in my retorts. I have one co-worker that I’ve gotten into ‘who is right’ disputes with. When it seems like he hasn’t been listening, and I’ve gotten flustered he’s responded with “you’re being emotional and acting like a woman right now, so we should probably stop talking.”
Who says that to a co-worker?!?! I think the part that probably was the hardest for me was having to continue working with this co-worker. There was a conversation about the situation, but nothing really came out of it. I still struggle with letting go of that resentment that rears it’s ugly head sometimes.
In reality, you should probably walk away and spend some time reflecting on the response and determine if it was a one-time thing or a pattern of behavior. Determine whether or not you can handle letting it go. Talk with somebody outside of work and use them as a sounding board. Make decisions about how you want to proceed (cf. How To Handle Discrimination at Work). A key component is to make sure you’re looking at the problem logically, venting is ok to an extent, but sometimes it only exacerbates the problem.
If after some time and thought you can’t let go, or the behavior repeats, you should follow the Susan Fowler approach of documenting everything. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. Make sure you have official meetings with your boss and HR, and follow up with emails about what was discussed. Save all of them in a file, not on your corporate computer.
This article probably does the best summation of your options, although I don’t really think that asking for an explanation makes sense when you’ve been blatantly judged based on your gender. Sometimes it works I suppose. But one thing is certain, there’s a line that you have to have on bias. And you must take the necessary steps once that line has been crossed.