Gender Microaggressions at Work: The Visible and Invisible

At work, this guy is always eyeing me up and down; it makes me feel awful.

During our team meetings, one guy invariably interrupts and talks over all of the women, even the team leader; why doesn’t someone call him out?

I shared with my female colleague that her jokes about women were creating an unhealthy dynamic in the department; she told me I was being too sensitive and should join the #metoo movement.

Gender Microaggressions

Gender microaggressions are defined as brief and everyday verbal and nonverbal behaviors and environmental conditions that communicate demeaning, hostile, and otherwise sexist insults towards women (Nadal, 2010). Nadal also describes three types of gender microaggressions:

  • Gender microassault: Blatant sexism, verbal, nonverbal, and behavioral. For example, verbal demeaning by calling a woman a “bitch” or a “whore.”
  • Gender microinsults: Often unintentional behaviors and statements that still convey negative messages about women. For example, in professional association meetings or classrooms, the convener may call primarily on men although women are raising their hand to speak.
  • Gender microinvalidation: This takes many forms, from exclusion from an activity because of a women’s sex, negating a woman’s ideas with jest, and ignoring a woman in the room of all men, even though she is a co-worker.

Swim, Hyers, Cohen, and Ferguson (2001) also calls these behaviors “everyday sexism” because they occur so often that they then become taken for granted as typical in that setting. We may all be in settings where everyday sexism is ongoing yet fail to notice but make attributions such as: That’s just John, being John; don’t take him seriously; or Carl is basically a good guy, just from an older generation, calling you sweetheart is not a big deal.

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Gay Pride Flag

PRIDE Month 2018

The past year has been filled with milestones and disappointments for the LGBTQ+ community. These events have affected colleagues in the workplace and our communities, and our “need to know” is essential to provide support and understanding. It is difficult to dispute that the current administration has chosen to oppress the rights of this community. The president announced that the military would “not accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve – fortunately, this gesture was short-lived after being struck down by four federal judges. Next, Attorney General Sessions made claims that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not provide protections from discrimination at work for transgender people. What policies are in place in your organization?

Despite the tumultuous social and political milieu emboldened by the current administration, the LGBTQ+ community has continued to make enormous strides. In recognition and celebration of PRIDE month, we would like to reflect on the strength and resilience of this community by outlining but a few of the historic political gains and positive shifts in representation and visibility seen throughout the past year.

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AAPI Leadership and Workplace Representation

AAPI Leadership and Workplace Representation

In acknowledgement of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month, we highlight the contributions and experiences of AAPIs in the workplace. First, it is important to note the vast diversity among AAPI groups which represent persons with heritage from many regions across the world.** Similarly, AAPI workers span many industries and occupations with some of the most popular sectors including management, business, science, and the arts.

As for other marginalized groups, professional gains for AAPI workers require an ability to navigate the many existent barriers among U.S. economic and educational systems. Misconceptions and stereotypes also negatively influence the experience of many. Nevertheless, continued themes of persistence and resilience shine through.

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Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted—Women Entrepreneurs

“In the future, there will be no women leaders – there will just be leaders”

Last year for Women’s history month, we highlighted women’s contributions as employees, students, consumers, leaders of social causes, and family members. This year we focus on women’s resilience and continued growth as business leaders and entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on the tremendous contributions of Women of Color.

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Black History Month

Recognizing African American Leadership in the Workplace

The celebration of Black History Month began in February 1976, as a tribute to two icons –Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln – whose birthdays occur in February. The month was originally established as Negro History Week in 1926 by African American historian and scholar, Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson was known as the “Father of Black History,” and was second to W.E.B Dubois in receiving a doctorate from Harvard. Dr. Woodson dedicated his career to African American history and authored the influential text “The Miseducation of the Negro.” [1]

In many work places, schools, universities, and other contexts, Black History is celebrated. For our monthly column, we call attention to historic figures who contributed to the legacy of African American leadership in the U.S.; many of these individuals are unknown. We also call attention to icons who have led by example.

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Attending to Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Attending to Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Normalizing discussions of mental health in the workplace has increased over the last 10–15 years as the stigma of seeing a mental health practitioner has decreased. Although this statement cannot be generalized to all workplaces, employers in-general have concerns about employee productivity, absenteeism, demeanor, and overall participation as a contributor. A constellation of these behaviors may be a signal of mental health distress or other distractors from the employee’s personal life. Of course, behaviors that overall reduce productivity are financial costs to the organization.

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Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke, Founder of #metoo – a Movement for Empathy and Empowerment

TIME magazine recognized the Silence Breakers for their forthcoming statements about sexual harassment in their work settings. All entertainers and high-profile women have advocated by raising their collective voices for the benefit not only of themselves but of other women and girls. But more than 10 years ago, Tarana Burke, began the social movement with women of color in the South and other major cities. An African American woman, she knew at the time that she was not alone in her experiences of sexual harassment and began to reach out, particularly to other women of color. Today, she continues her advocacy at a grass roots level, engaging women often left in silence.

In the November AAG newsletter, we noted that, surveys report that roughly 25% of all women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace [1]. Perhaps the statistics of non-celebrities were buried in the article because colleagues asked me about how sexual harassment affected women of color and blue-collar women. So that these facts are not overlooked, we have decided to restate the data this month.

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The Historic Pervasiveness of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Normalizing discussions of mental health in the workplace has increased over the last 10–15 years as the stigma of seeing a mental health practitioner has also decreased. Although this statement cannot be generalized to all workplaces, employers in-general have concerns about employee productivity, absenteeism, demeanor, and overall participation as a contributor. A constellation of these behaviors may be a signal of mental health distress or other distractors from the employee’s personal life. Of course, behaviors that overall reduce productivity are financial costs to the organization.

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Mindfulness to Maximize Workplace Performance

During the last 20-25 years, we have witnessed attention to various methodologies to enhance workplace productivity and efficiency. Among strategies are workshops to enhance teamwork and communications, improvement in relationships informed by inclusive diversity expectations, and the promotion of wellness. Related to wellness are programs designed to integrate mind, body, and spirit for more intentional focus and output. Mindfulness is one such strategy.

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