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Women Shared Their Best Tips For Working In Male-Dominated Workplaces, And I'm Taking Notes

Don't be afraid to brag!

Recently, we asked the women of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their tips for advocating for yourself in the workplace. Here are some of the best responses!

Note: While we think the below tips are certainly helpful, we don't want to suggest that the responsibility should fall solely on women to make changes to their own behavior. Men also need to make changes in order to make the workforce less misogynistic.

1. Be more decisive with your words.

a queen on RuPaul's Drag Race saying, "I said what I said"

"Whenever I’m presenting an idea or suggesting a change on a project, instead of saying (or writing in an email), 'I think we should do x,' I say 'We should do x.' It makes me sound more confident and lessens the chance of my comment being put up for interpretation. It’s been a game changer."


2. Save "I'm sorry" for when you really need it.

the character Gilly saying "Sorry" on SNL

"Stop constantly apologizing for your presence. Instead of saying sorry when you knock on the boss's door, ask them if they have a minute. Instead of apologizing for being a couple minutes late for lunch, thank them for waiting. Instead of apologizing for disagreeing, just disagree. Save the apologies for when you really do need to apologize."


3. And take the word "just" entirely out of your vocabulary...

Teresa Giudice on Real Housewives saying, "I mean, I'm just sayin'"

"Try to take the word 'just' out of your vocabulary. I saw a statistic that stated women use 'just' 70% more often than men. 'Just' asks for permission to speak. We use it in our spoken language and in our written language as women more because we’re used to asking permission for things. When you take 'just' out of the sentence, it means the same thing and it gives the sentence and statement more power."


4. ...As well as qualifiers like "if that makes sense."

woman saying, "you know what I'm saying?"

"Take qualifiers out of your sentences. Women tend to communicate their ideas starting with, 'I might be wrong but...', 'I kind of feel like...', 'I don’t know if this is right but...', and 'I think that...' In general, men don’t do this, which is why their opinions often come off like they’re stating facts. (I also enjoy calling men out for that — is that a fact or just your opinion?)"


5. Advocate for yourself and ask for what you want.

woman saying "I just think you deserve better"

"No one is going to speak up for you, including other women. If you want something — a raise, promotion, that cool project — ask for it and keep asking until you get it. You have to advocate for yourself; you are worth it!"


6. But you don't always have to ask for things; you can take what you need.

Homer saying, "I like your attitude. Take what you need" on The Simpsons

"Also, you'll find you have more freedom than you think...don't be afraid to ask for things you need or take them for yourself if they are essential to your job. For example, if no one gave you any supplies and you need something, just go to the stock room and get it; if you need to make a lot of calls and you're in a shared space, ask if there's a more private room you can use, or even if an office is available. If you need to leave the premises to deal with an administrative issue or meet with someone, don't ask for permission, just inform whoever you need to that you're going out for that reason and when you'll be back."


7. Don't let imposter syndrome hold you back.

Alexis saying "you earned it" on Schitt's Creek

"Remember that you got the job over a number of other people — you interviewed, they got to know you and what you bring to the table, and they felt you were the best choice over all the others. Don't let imposter syndrome hold you back. You may not be the PERFECT person for the job, but you don't have to be — you just need to be competent and willing to do the work."


8. If you're getting criticized, try to keep an eye out for male colleagues doing the same thing — and if they're not criticized, bring it up the next time you are.

woman saying, "I'm simply appalled at the double standards you men try to impose on us women"
Warner Bros. Pictures

"Whenever I get negatively criticized on my appearance (usually because if I dress down, or don't do my hair, or don't wear makeup, I'm 'not being professional'), I buy and wear similar things I see my male coworkers wear, and only wear those 4–5 outfit combos until I get criticized again. Then I go, 'But this is exactly like what Todd wore on Tuesday! It's completely professional! Oh my goodness, is it not professional? Has Todd been told he's committed such a faux pas? I'll go get him, poor Todd! He shouldn't have to be embarrassed any longer!' They shut up, and usually don't criticize my appearance for at least a year. Or at least until we get new management."


9. Don't be afraid to "brag."

woman saying, "I don't mean to brag"

"Women notoriously play down their own achievements. I did this for years despite being very accomplished in my field. I finally overcame this when I was offered a promotion but the managers were trying to argue I should not get the pay rise. I pointed out all my achievements and what they would be getting with me being in the new post. I definitely got their attention and their respect. Haven’t looked back since."


"Speak up about your achievements and what you have accomplished. It’s not always a team effort, so don’t shy away from saying so. This applies especially if you are working virtually. Colleagues, even bosses, often need to be shown all the amazing things you can do. Don’t wait for them to just notice."


10. And keep a list of your accomplishments to make this easier.

Spongebob with a long list

"Keep a 'brag book.' Any compliment from a supervisor, client, fellow employee, etc. should be saved somewhere...These give a quick confidence boost when needed — bust them out during performance reviews as a reminder to your boss of how awesome you are."


11. When someone says a sexist joke, ask how it's funny.

Erin saying she doesn't get it on The Office

"If someone makes a sexist joke, either deadpan them and move on without acknowledging it, or say, 'I don't get it, why is it funny?' and make them explain the joke. Explaining why the joke is funny will most likely make them feel like an asshole. They probably won't do it again."


12. Do things you don't feel 100% qualified for.

Andy saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I know I'm doing it really, really well" on Parks and Recreation

"When in doubt, put yourself in the mix. If you want the promotion but you don’t know if you’re 100% qualified, apply. You think you deserve more money, ask for the raise. You see a better way of doing things, say so. Lay out exactly how and why you’re the best person to do it, and ask for more money to do it. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, but they know you want more. Women undervalue their abilities and value in the workplace compared to men. I once almost didn’t apply for a promotion I wanted because I didn’t meet every qualification exactly. I ended up being the only female applicant and I got the promotion. My father once wrote a job description for a brand-new position (including a salary), applied for the position he made up, and got it."


13. Obviously you should never be actively mean, but don't let the fear of being seen as "mean" stop you from doing your job.

Janice saying, "You are a mean girl" in Mean Girls
Paramount Pictures

"Think about what you want to achieve — and not just big picture, but also in smaller interactions — and how to best and most logically go about reaching that goal. Remember, you aren’t at work to make friends or 'be nice,' you are at work to achieve a goal. That may mean that you let someone being a jerk roll off your back because fighting for a sense of justice won’t help you achieve your goals, or it might sometimes mean you step on some toes to get the job done right. I’m not at all saying that you behave like an asshat or let others walk all over you, just pick your battles based not on what you’ll win, but what will serve you, and don’t play nice simply to make other feel good about themselves!"


14. And don't be afraid to say no!

Cady saying "No" in Mean Girls
Paramount Pictures

“'No' is an acceptable answer; you do not have to do everything everyone asks you to do. Explanations are nice (no, I won’t do that because I don’t have appropriate permissions), but not necessary. I know it’ll make a lot of people not like you because of issues with society, but that’s their problem, not yours."


15. Especially when it comes to stuff like office "housework" or party planning — you don't have to do it just because male colleagues expect it of you!

Drake saying, "That is not my job" on Drake and Josh

"You don’t have to do office 'housework' that isn’t explicitly your responsibility. Same goes for party planning. These kinds of tasks often fall to women because people expect women to do them. If the kitchen is nasty and it bothers you, suggest assigning one person a week to keep it clean. But you don’t have to clean it every time just because nobody else is, and you don’t even have to create the assignment system. If you want to, that’s fine, but don’t give yourself extra work that you don’t want to do and won’t get paid for. And you don’t have to agree to extra unpaid labor that someone else tries to give you, either!"


16. If you are interrupted during a presentation, keep talking.

Kamala Harris saying, "I'm speaking"

"Men speaking over me and interrupting my presentations was a huge issue when I started, and something I've learned is when someone interrupts, just keep talking at your regularly pace and volume. Don't raise your voice or shoot an angry look or stop or try to make a comeback. Just ignore it and keep talking. Trust me, it works!"


17. In an interview, don't talk about your current salary — talk about the salary you want.

Caroline saying, "I think I deserve better than that" on The Vampire Diaries
The CW

"Never give your current salary. Give what you want/deserve to make (this number should make you a little uncomfortable in a fun way) and if they push back, say, 'I have done the market research and this is the number I landed on. I am underpaid in my current position and I’m sure X company would rather not perpetuate that cycle.'


18. Negotiate your salary for new jobs!

Jerry shouting, "Show me the money!" In Jerry Maguire
Sony Pictures Releasing

"Always negotiate the salary for a potential job offer. My mother told me that when she used to hire people for her job, most women rarely negotiated their pay while men always did for the same job/position and with the same resume. I think it's internalized misogyny that makes women not negotiate while men do."


"Always counter-offer any salary you’re offered when you start a new job. NO MATTER WHAT. Worst case scenario, they’ll just say no. Best case scenario, you’ll make more money!"


19. If you're having trouble with negotiations or feeling uncomfortable about asking for more, write out what you want to say.

Spongebob about to write

"I find two things to be really helpful. First, write out what you want to say first. This will both help organize your thoughts and make you more confident in what you are asking for. Practice this if you have time before a meeting — the more confident you feel, the more you will command a meeting. Second, I find that in general, if you can provide some data, that will really help your case. Whether that’s hours worked or comparable salaries. You can’t ignore discrepancies in numbers."


20. And finally, lift up other women whenever you get the chance...

Liz saying "I support women, I'm like a human bra" on 30 Rock

"Lift up other women in the workplace, too. I work in engineering, so most of my coworkers are men. My supervisor is a woman and she is the smartest person I work with, and I always take the opportunity to sing her praises to those we work with. Women often are an afterthought in male-dominated fields, so I always try to highlight my fellow ladies’ accomplishments when I can!"


"Sometimes all it takes is one person to speak up to give others confidence. Just today, my coworker spoke up for me because she knows I won’t make a fuss about a small issue. It’s not always as big as a raise or promotion."


21. ...And if you're not in a position of power to easily do this, start working with people who do!


"If you have even a small amount of power, use it to advocate for others. If you have no power, start forming alliances with people who do. Since I am in HR, I see a lot of things that most people don’t, so I am very vocal with leadership when I see inconsistencies in how different kinds of people are treated, hired, paid, promoted, etc. and always try to partner with middle managers who are strong employee advocates to back me up. Build a strong relationship with your manager, with your manager’s manager, with your team, with HR, and with anyone else who may be willing to advocate for you when the time comes that you need it. Women are so often dismissed when we try to advocate for ourselves, so we need all the allies and resources we can get."


Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.