“This has been an exhausting, stressful, and sometimes downright weird election for all of us.”
When President Obama spoke these words on November 8th, it felt like the one thing that the entire country could agree upon. Regardless of party affiliation, we could not wait for the turmoil of the divisive election season to be past us. There was hope on the horizon.
President Obama was right- the sun did rise the next morning. But here we are, almost four months later, and the dust still has not settled. Things feel even more tense than before. We are becoming even quicker to assume what is happening in someone else’s mind or heart, and if or why they stand a certain way on an issue (political or otherwise), all based on (how we assume that) they voted.
This is especially true for women’s issues, which were so overtly immersed in every aspect of the 2016 election that it now feels like women themselves are the political issue.
If we aren’t careful, we will take these assumptions, emotions, and opinions into the workplace, where gender equality is not a new fight. The conversation around gender equality at work cannot be seen as a product of the 2016 election cycle, because it isn’t. To lump women’s issues in the workplace with a political mess is unfair, because it silences the many rational voices that have been advancing this issue and the women it affects for decades, even centuries.
Now more than ever it is important that we separate gender equality from any party affiliation, and to remember that when women advance professionally that we all benefit. Gender inequality at work is not political, it is factual. The pay gap is real. Women are disadvantaged in corporate America as it relates to promotions and have less access to senior leadership. We are increasingly underrepresented along the corporate pipeline, and women of color are least represented of all.
Image from the 2016 Women in the Workplace Report. We recommend you read it!
The best way to separate the fight for gender equality in the workplace from any other political fight is to keep politics out of the professional setting at all cost. It is, after all, the most basic etiquette rule: Don’t discuss sex, religion, or politics. But this is 2017. All etiquette has gone out of the window, and people are fighting about politics with no holds barred with their colleagues, friends and family, and any stranger on the internet that will engage.
If you, like me, are deeply addicted to checking news sites and feel passionately about many political issues our country is facing, it is important to take a step back for your professional safety (and sanity). Here are a few of the ways that have been helpful for me over the past four months.
Five Ways Remain Calm, Cool, and Collected in Today’s Political Climate
(so we can focus on closing the wage gap and fighting for gender quality in the workplace)
- Get involved outside of work. If you feel strongly about something, take action. Get involved on a local level, give to an organization that is advancing your cause, or write to your elected officials. This will empower you and fulfill you, which will leave you less likely to complain about the things you can’t change.
- Let others know if they are crossing a line (professionally). If you are in a conversation at work that turns political, it is okay to let the person you are talking to know that now isn’t the time. If you don’t want the conversation to continue it is well within your rights to say so. If someone begins to cross the line in political argument territory, simply tell them that you prefer not to discuss politics at work. It’s a professional, straight to the point comment that will allow you to veer the conversation in a new direction.
- Take digital breaks. If reading the news makes you sweat and audibly curse, it’s best not to read it at work. Turn off the news alerts on your phone, and trust that one of your coworkers will tell you if something that truly cannot wait happens. If you aren’t reading it, you are less likely to talk about it.
- Remember that we all come to work with a different worldview. We all come to the table with different life experiences behind us. Actively remember this on a daily basis, especially when you are in a challenging conversation that could become frustrating. Then, read #5:
- Take a deep breath, walk away, and carefully consider if it’s worth it. If things escalate, simply take a deep breath, remove yourself from the conversation, and think about it for a bit. Did someone ignore your request to change the subject from politics and say something offensive? If so, it is probably worth your time and reputation to alert the appropriate person in your office hierarchy. If someone simply expressed an opinion that you strongly disagree with, but meant you no harm, it probably isn’t. Although, it might be worth sending them a nice email reiterating point #2.
That’s it. It’s all I’ve got to get me through this strange political climate. As a woman that makes her living by empowering women at work, it is extremely important to me that we keep the fight for gender equality at work out of the political fight.
If you are interested in focusing on the positive changes that your women’s initiative can make now to help close the equality gap, let’s talk. There’s a lot we can do if we work together!