In the past year, Dr. Patricia Arredondo has posted several blogs on the topics of Gender Microaggressions at Work: The Visible and Invisible (July 2018) Bullying in the Workplace (August 2018) and Historic Pervasiveness of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (November 2017). These blogs describe the microinsults that occur and the sense of disrespect experienced by the targets of bullying, sexual harassment, and “everyday microaggressions”. This month’s blog builds on contemporary sociocultural realities that affect individuals in the workplace.
Many workplaces and universities are getting ready to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, signed into law in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, and intended to honor the contributions of persons of Hispanic and Latina/o heritage in the U.S. This month-long event (September 15th-October 15th) is an opportunity for more than 56 million individuals to celebrate their collective and country-specific ethnic heritage. The celebration is also a time for awareness and knowledge-building about self, friends, and workplace colleagues.
Hispanic, Latina/o, Latin@, and Latinx are all terms that have been used to categorize or label people from 21 Spanish-speaking countries. As a psychology scholar of Mexican-American heritage (born in Lorain, OH), I have lived through the evolution of identity monikers that do not always fit who I am or how I want to identify ethnically. In fact, many colleagues and friends prefer to call themselves Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, or Chicana because this expresses their ethnic heritage, their family history—something more personal.
Bullying in schools continues to receive deserved and extensive attention. Originally, the focus was on playground and hallway behavior with individuals or groups ganging up on an individual perceived to be weaker, different, or otherwise, a good target for aggression. Boy-on-boy violence today continues to be more commonplace.
The workplace, the setting where individuals go daily to “make a living,” advance their career, and to otherwise contribute to an organization’s mission and bottom line, is a site of daily bullying to both men and women alike.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.” 
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.
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.