Updated: Feb 6, 2020
We, South Asian Women, are beginning to empower the workplace, despite most of us being born into traditional families. In mainstream society, it isn't very easy for a woman of our descent to find her voice and be treated equally among men. The struggle is real, to follow our ambitions, progress up the career ladder and bag those high paid positions. This is partly because of our conservative and structured upbringing; Study, marry and run a family! Sadly, no lessons at school are taught of the oppressive reality of work-life for women, and the day-to-day battles we have to endure for being from a different ethnicity.
So, allow me to introduce the term mansplaining:
'The explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.' – urban dictionary
Can you relate? Here is a brilliant chart by Kim Goodwill created for the BBC explaining ways to identify mansplaining, and it went viral for all the right reasons.
All jokes aside, did you know mansplaining can also be career-limiting if you don't confront it head-on? Men get training, career progression and higher pay because of their confidence and lack of empathy. Whereas, women are often seen to be over-emotional and too polite, traits which a leader or senior manager shouldn't have?
Hang in there ladies, because here are 5 tips for identifying and handling mansplaining:
1. Confront: Being told how to do your job a certain way by colleagues or managers, who tend to be men can be annoying. Surely, you got the job because of your experience, right? That doesn't mean you don't adapt to the company working methods or training. Neither should mansplaining be tolerated if you see the early signs, because ladies, if issues are not dealt with straight away, it can damage your reputation and potential promotions too.
Solution - Men do this to each other so often without an aggressive tone, and so can you! Politely tell them, 'Duke, I have got this, but appreciate your help' or 'Let me give it a go, any questions, we can discuss it then.' Sometimes, men don't realise they can be patronising, so confronting is your best move.
2. Use humour to make your point: Some men at work don't know when to stop. They interrupt whilst you speak, explains the brief when it's already in the written context, and further tells you how to do your job. Aargh! This can be frustrating and prevent you from thinking outside the box. Ladies, this is how we lose out on opportunities to showcase our talent and catch those job promotions!
Solution - The trick is to stop them and make them aware of their actions with subtle humour. 'C'mon Maison, stop stealing my spotlight and let me get on with it' or when speaking to a senior manager, use confident wit that won't offend them.
3. Stick together – Us ladies need to stick together in a male-dominated work environment. That also means supporting one another's ideas when mansplainers interrupt.
Solution - Share your ideas with female colleagues before a meeting. It shows confidence in your proposal and the ability to work in a team, even if those supporters are men, you stand a chance against the mansplainers.
4. Use a deep and loud tone – Men can quickly grab an audience's attention because of their deep and loud tone. Notice in protests and riots, you hear the men's voice, over the women, even if they are in the gathering. Asian women are encouraged by their parents to speak gently as a form of respect. Therefore we struggle to speak up amongst the predators - mansplainers.
Solution - Next time you sit in a meeting, observe your fellow colleague who makes the room go quiet and is heard. Notice, they speak louder and try to use a deeper voice, grabbing more people's attention. Practice in front of the mirror until you feel confident.
5. Question Time – Chronic mansplainers always talk over you, impose their ideas in meetings or explains how to do a better job regardless of your experience. These men typically lack knowledge in the area of expertise, and so the best way to shut them down is by questioning them.
Solution - Questioning mansplainers puts them in their place, so give these men a Q time ladies. 'What knowledge do you have on the project discussed?' 'How will your expertise improve the project or proposal?'.
Try not to sound arrogant, as there is a fine line between arrogance and being wickedly smart. For those who hide behind their fears, it's time to stand up for yourselves, because only you can follow your ambition and goals. Otherwise, you will be a tool to follow other's dreams.