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If you want to see some changes in how male colleagues treat you at work, you have to speak up says Holly Caplan, author of Surviving the D**k Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World.

“I want to see each woman work with dignity, respect, and to lead by example,” says Caplan. “To know their worth and believe in themselves.”

During the 20 years she worked in the medical device industry, Caplan became familiar with the boys’ club.  She climbed the ladder from sales positions into management and found out quickly how uncomfortable things could get at work.  She learned that prospering in the industry would require adopting group values of this clique and membership would come with a battle.

“A culture of sexism and harassment has been a consistent part of every company I’ve ever worked for.  At each organization, I was taught not to challenge the boys or their club—as it could hurt my job, opportunities for advancement and my reputation,” she says.

Gender inequality exists, in fact, in 2017 the situation got worse according to the World Economic Forum.  A recent study shows it will take exactly 100 years to close at the current rate of progress.  The forecast in 2016, was 83 years.  The discrepancies that affect women every single day exist not only in the form of pay, but in treatment, recognition, and respect, says Caplan.

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“As I earned my way into a management role in a male-dominated field, I found myself in so many situations that were not familiar to me, nor did I know how to handle them. They were shocking, degrading, shaming and sometimes meaningful,” Caplan tells HER Magazine.

Caplan felt like she was in unchartered territory as she rose through the ranks.  While all men are not harassing women or making them feel uncomfortable at work, Caplan is shedding light on her experiences with the men who mistreated her.  She holds nothing back, in a raw and uncut guide meant to prepare women blossoming in their careers on how to handle, stand up for themselves and demand respect.

“We have to get HR more involved with helping us handle the male/female work dynamic.  We need more structure around how situations are handled. It could mean a program for women in the organization, or it could mean creating different rules and regarding behavior to incite change,” says Caplan.

Despite accomplishments and awards, Caplan says she was never called on to lead projects.  She faced bullying that men didn’t.  She experienced self-doubt, and looking back she learned she should have stepped up for herself and gotten Human Resources involved earlier.

“If there were a team project, I would offer to lead because I wanted to stay engaged and share my leadership skills, but my manager always had someone else in mind.  And it was a man.  I was quickly told to stand down –usually on an email with my male colleagues copied to drive the point home. They made sure I knew my ideas and skills were not as good as theirs,” she says.

If speaking up is the catalyst for change, how do you do that if you are worried about losing your job? According to Caplan, document, document, document.  Keep notes of your past accomplishments and create future goals for yourself and show how it will impact the organization.

“Take it right to HR and start the conversation now. Do not let time pass – you need to get ahead of the situation,” she says.

It takes a lot of courage to put yourself on the firing line, and it’s time to start having these bold conversations.  If nothing happens now, the behavior will just continue, says Caplan.

“Women have to be twice as strong to compete in the male-dominated environment.  They have to be twice as prepared, twice as smart and two steps ahead,” she says.

Caplan’s tips for negotiating a better salary:

  1. Know your worth.  Go in with a number, and be confident about it.
  2. Back it up with a list of your accomplishments and accolades.
  3. End the conversation with goals in mind and a timeline.  “This will show she has past successes, plans and knows how to execute,” Caplan says.
  4. Document your plans and share it with Human Resources to provide another layer of security and support.

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