‘The Office’: Mindy Kaling Experienced ‘a Gentler Form of Sexism’ While Working on the Show

Though most fans of The Office are sure to recognize Mindy Kaling from her bubbly character, Kelly Kapoor, Kaling contributed a lot more to the show. A writer, Kaling is to thank for hilarious and memorable episodes like “Niagra”, “Hot Girl”, “The Injury” and more. Furthermore, later on in the popular series, Kaling was able to receive the executive producer credits that she’d rightfully earned.

The Office cast member Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor sits at her desk and addresses the camera
Mindy Kaling | Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Though Kaling has been candid about enjoying her time on The Office, her experience wasn’t without its struggles. Being in the writer’s rooms during Season 1 of the show was particularly difficult for Kaling. Working alongside the other writers: B.J. Novak, Paul Lieberstein, Michael Schur, and Greg Daniels, Kaling was the only woman and the person of color in the room. Furthermore, as a Dartmouth grad, she was the only one who didn’t have a Harvard background.

Mindy Kaling on her early days in ‘The Office’ writers’ room

“I think that they would be OK with me saying this, they’re not the friendliest guys at all,” Kaling once shared with Off Camera about her early experiences of writing for The Office. “And four of them had gone to Harvard and worked on the Lampoon [Harvard’s undergraduate humor publication] and I was the youngest and I was a staff writer that came from New York that had no TV experience.”

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The Mindy Project alum has gotten candid about the fact that she felt pretty terrified in the writer’s room during the first season of The Office. Fortunately, as time went on, she got more comfortable expressing her voice and her ideas with her fellow writers. Still, because she was the only woman, she couldn’t help but notice how sexism sometimes affected the ways in which her work was valued or treated.

The producer explains the sexism she experienced on set

Back in 2014, Kaling spoke with NPR about her career and the subtle and overt ways in which sexism has manifested itself throughout her work experiences. Reflecting on her time at The Office and The Mindy Project, she revealed that her decisions and choices were challenged a lot more than that of her male counterparts.

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“I think that the sort of sexism that I see has been one that’s a little bit like a gentler form of sexism, but still a little bit debilitating, which is that when, as a producer and a writer, whether it was at The Office or [at The Mindy Project], if I make a decision, it’ll still seem like it’s up for debate,” Kaling shared.

Kaling’s ideas were treated differently by an actor while working for ‘The Office’

Continuing on, Kaling shared that an actor at The Office was fond of challenging or questioning the choices she’d made as a writer and producer and she noticed that men in the same position weren’t challenges. “And I notice that a little bit at The Office, with, like, an actor: If I decided there’d be a certain way in the script, it would still seem open-ended, whereas if I was a man I would not have seen that.”

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Thankfully, Kaling developed a great way to combat the sexism she experienced at The Office. Later on in the interview, she declared that once she made a decision for The Mindy Project, she would leave the room so others would understand that her decisions weren’t up for discussion. Personally, we love that tactic, though it’s a shame that Kaling had to utilize it at all.