The Ugly Truth of Discrimination in the Workplace and How to Deal with It

Most women will be treated unfairly or differently than their male counterparts at some point in their careers because that is the world we live in. The good news is that there are strategies you can use for dealing with discrimination or sexual harassment. Let’s explore the problem and some solutions for dealing with discrimination in the workplace.

Working in a Male-Dominated World

I am a warrior. I have always felt like a powerhouse of energy and force. I grew up in a neighborhood of boys playing bows and arrows, BMX bikes, basketball, and skateboarding. I was loud and fearless, and usually, the boys did what I wanted, not the other way around. In my world, my gender didn’t matter. I was as strong, tough, and fierce as any boy. So, when I grew up and entered the workplace, it was a shock to be treated differently. 

Because of my childhood and strong independence, I always chose work based on what I wanted rather than what I felt I had to do. Unfortunately, that meant working in male-dominated fields for most of my career. I never even considered the consequences of doing so, but over thirty years, I experienced a lot of discrimination and sexual harassment.

The silver lining is having experienced so much of it; I have learned how to cope, respond, and keep myself safe. 

male-dominated workplace

Being Pretty Isn’t Always a Good Thing

I have never thought much about my looks; it’s not who I am inside. Although people consider me attractive when I look in the mirror, all I see are flaws.

When I was 22, I sat in a job interview, and the company owner said, “You’re too pretty for this job.” I sat there with my mouth hung open, speechless. I am never speechless, so it took a few minutes to gather my thoughts and get over the shock before I lit into him. I had worked hard to get where I was and earn the early stripes on my resume, and I wasn’t going to let some ignorant man get the best of me. I was so proud of how much I had accomplished at such a young age, but all he could see was blonde hair and blue eyes. It made me feel rage. 

That incident set the stage for what was to come for the rest of my career. It’s tough to be taken seriously when all someone else sees is your outside appearance.

In my business now, I turn off the video when I have initial calls with potential clients (especially men). I would rather they hear what I say before forming an opinion based on my looks. This works really well. The person on the other end of the call gets to know me, my skills, and my value before they make a snap decision.

Stop Working Harder for Less

Just about any woman in business, even leaders will tell you they feel like they have to work harder than men, but they get less respect, fewer accolades, and less money for their hard work. 

This is because we are taught through the media, our parents, colleagues, and life itself that somehow women are “less than” men. It’s total bullshit but deep down, we believe it, so we put up with working harder, longer, and getting less. 

The trick is breaking that pattern. We must find ways to beef up our confidence and see ourselves as valuable regardless of gender. Some of the ways I have done this is through deep meditation and hypnotherapy. It has helped me come to terms with my own insecurities and feeling “less than.” Building confidence will help you deal with disrespectful clients and co-workers. When you feel like you matter, others will see it and react to it. 

I also broke the rules. I found ways to work less and make more. I dropped clients who dragged me down and expected too much of me for a minimal payoff. I sought out high-paying clients so that my work has more value, and I dumped clients who delayed paying me on time. 

I now have complete control over my financial future and how I work. If I detect any discrimination within the first couple of meetings, I politely excuse myself from the project. I will not allow disrespect.

I also prefer to work with businesswomen. Most treat me as equals, and they are respectful and complimentary when I do a good job. I treat them the same way that I expect to be treated. 

sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment: The Workplace’s Dirty Secret

I’ve always considered myself one of the boys. I usually get along with men because I enjoy the same topics as they do. At parties, I was always in the room with the men talking about photography, computers, or sports. The women were in the kitchen talking about stuff I didn’t care about. I grew up with boys and can often relate better to them. However, in business, I prefer to work with women. 

When I was 23, I worked for a lawn care company. It was all men, and I was the only woman. Most of the guys were in their thirties and married with children. There were a couple of guys in their late twenties and single. I didn’t have to worry about them. 

It was one of the married owners with children that made my life a living hell.  Every time he came into the office, I would recoil in disgust. He always made lewd, suggestive comments to me to the point of directly propositioning me for sex. 

I was young and tried to ignore or laugh it off, but it made me sick. I worked there for a few years, so the torture was ongoing. I found this man repulsive. I tried my best to never be alone with him, but sometimes he would stop back in the office in the middle of the day while everyone else was out. I felt a vague sense of danger whenever he was around.

Years later, I helped this same guy with a computer problem (as a favor to my now ex-husband). I snapped when he demanded that I keep helping him (at no cost). All those pent-up feelings of rage from his abuse came bubbling back up, and I let him have it. I recounted every gross thing he had ever said to me. I threatened to send the list to his wife and take legal action against him if he ever contacted me again. That was it; I have never seen or heard from him again. It took me boiling over to confront my abuser finally.

I didn’t deal with it back when it happened because I didn’t know any better. But any woman who is being harassed or pressured in a sexual way should take action quickly. If I had known better, I would have gone to his business partner to report him and to the state. I wouldn’t have hesitated because any hostile workplace is unacceptable. 

Because these things can be traumatizing, I suggest you get therapy or help with your emotions. If not, they will fester and come back to bite you later. I shoved it all down deep until it came blasting back out years later when this guy tried to coerce free work out of me. If I had to do it over again, I would confront him the first time and tell him, “I won’t accept that type of behavior; that’s it!” 

be your own savior

Be Your Own Savior

I learned long ago that we are all essentially alone in this world. You may have family, friends, and close associates, but so much of our lives take place in our heads, and in there, we are all alone. 

When faced with discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s up to you to address it, or it will continue. Some tips for looking out for yourself are:

  1. Boost Your Confidence – Work with a therapist or get some type of help to improve your self-confidence. That is key to responding to any abuse or discrimination. Don’t forget to work on any PTSD or trauma from the event. 
  2. Research Your Options – Find out what your options are about reporting sexual harassment or discrimination. Most companies have HR procedures to make this easy. However, be prepared if it’s a male-dominated company; you may receive retaliation even though it’s illegal. The laws don’t always mean everyone will behave as they should. 
  3. Report or Confront – If you feel strong enough, confront the person responsible. That may mean calling them out for bad behavior or demanding better pay and conditions that match your male counterparts. If you don’t feel like that is what is best for you, report it to your company or the state agency in charge of employment laws.
  4. Hold Your Head Up High – Take back control of your life by doing something about it and not letting the status quo be. Hold your head up high and realize you are doing nothing wrong. You deserve to be treated with respect, paid fairly for your work, and enjoy a safe, harmonious work environment. 

You may find that walking away from this workplace is the only option. In other cases, things improve after you confront or report the behavior. Either way, until gender doesn’t mean anything and we treat everyone fairly, we women must stick together and lean on our support systems and each other. 


If you are dealing with sexual harassment at work, it is imperative that you report it right away. If you need support, please reach out to the Girlboss Burnbook, and we will do our best to assist you. Good luck out there.

Dawna M. Roberts

Dawna M. Roberts

Serial Entrepreneur

Dawna M. Roberts is a professional writer, author, and illustrator. She is a serial entrepreneur
and has owned three successful businesses during her career. Dawna specializes in content
writing, copywriting, SEO, and digital marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. She
also maintains a blog, More Positive Outcomes, to help struggling people overcome life’s
challenges and find more happiness, joy, and success. Her greatest joy is helping others through