As powerful women, respectful and mindful of our female colleagues, there are some subjects that should be no-gos for comments in the workplace. If you have nothing to say to your co-worker who happens to be a woman, just talk about the weather. But steer clear of the old traps and stereotypes. Here’s how.

Avoid terms of endearment

Don’t call her honey, sweetie or girlie. She’s a professional in the workplace just like you and these comments are considered degrading or sexual no matter how good your intentions are.

Avoid gender comparisons

Don’t use gender to make comparisons or evaluate work.  For example, “great job speaking up, especially as a woman.” Adding that type of qualifier detracts from the compliment.

Avoid mood-related stereotypes

If you were having a heated disagreement with a male colleague, you would never bring up his hormonal status, would you? The passion would not be misconstrued as “emotions”. Offer your female colleague the same respect.

Don’t presume family commitment

There is an unspoken belief that women can’t put in the same hours once she has had children. But don’t presume your female colleague isn’t looking for a promotion now that she has kids. Don’t question if she plans to keep working at all. You would not ask a father those questions, and the same rules apply for a mother. If she makes the choice to stay at home, she will share that when she is ready.

Don’t tell her to be more aggressive

Telling your female colleague she needs to be aggressive in order to be effective, or to adopt other similar more “manly” strategies may be misguided. The reality is that a variety of communication styles are effective and welcome in the workplace and create a balanced culture.

Avoid physical comments

You don’t need to comment on weight or looks. If you wouldn’t make small talk about a guy’s shirt or body weight, no reason to objectify her either.


There are so many subtle ways women continue to be treated differently in the workplace and kept in a box with which we are all comfortable. As women, let’s support and lift up our female colleagues with respect, dignity and power.