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3 Ways Women in Business Deal With Male Chauvinism

08/27/2013 06:35 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2013

It may be 2013, but male chauvinism is alive and well and rampant in America! Yes, I said it loud and proud. Women in business, working women, women entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, yes, all women, must keep their antennas engaged and prepared to encounter neanderthal thinking. It is lurking in places one might never expect.

The fact is there are still men who have never, at least in their own minds, encountered an intelligent, capable-of-doing-almost-anything woman of substance. They have spent their entire lives grousing to other men and come from the generation that believed women should be seen and not heard. In other words, they only speak to women when they are required to.

The dialogue typically goes something like this:

She: I'd like to be considered for the such-and-such assignment. I believe I can bring a fresh approach and unbiased perspective to the conversation.

He: (grumble)

She: How will this decision be made? Is there anyone else interested in this position?

Group (all male): No response.

He: (responding to entire group) We'll take a vote on the such-and-such assignment at the next meeting. Do I have a motion to adjourn?

Now, you may be saying, "Vicki, how can you say that being ignored equals male chauvinism?" The answer very simply is that outside of the meeting the such-and-such assignment was appointed and I'm sure you can guess who didn't get selected or even notified!

So, what are women in business and all women put in this situation to do?

First, if women expect other men to speak up for them and over the boss, they should think again. It won't happen. Men have a code with each other and that's why it is an old boy's network. That doesn't mean that a conversation outside of the meeting, one-on-one, with any one of the other men in the group won't be productive. It almost always is in my experience. Just call one and ask to have a chat. It is rare to find a whole group of male chauvinists. Like a rooster, the male chauvinist stands guard over his territory and will attack any other rooster that comes into his territory. Quite honestly, the other men are generally horrified by the male chauvinist's behavior. But, although it makes them uncomfortable, they ignore it in order to stand strong for male pride.

Second, women must accept the male chauvinist the way he is. Understanding and accepting that he will not change will save you lots of wasted time and energy. Instead, take the time to get him to open up about what's directly important to him. Find ways to help him achieve his goals. Remember, if he truly believes women aren't much good for anything, then he won't ask too much of you anyway. But, at least he knows you are on his side.

Third, if all your efforts to be heard go completely unnoticed by the male chauvinist, I can almost guarantee that he is actually afraid of confrontation -- particularly confrontation with women. Rather than believing women are useless, these guys tend to be afraid of exactly how competent women are and will do anything to avoid competing with them. Your only course of action with this type of male chauvinist is to demonstrate to him how you can help make him look good. Try helping him in very small ways in front of others to show that you are a team player. Your motto is "what's good for the team is good for me." This tactic is probably the most difficult of all for most capable women, but in the end, when no other choice is available to you it is your only option.

I, like most women in business, adore working with men. But, every now and then, I come face-to-face with one of these... let's just call them grumpy old men, and I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, "What planet have you been living on. Don't you realize women are doing everything a man can do -- and most often doing it better! Can you imagine how wonderful the world could be if there was more shared leadership with men and women working side-by-side for the betterment of society?"

Of course, his answer is "grumble."