Casual Sexism In The Workplace May Affect Women More Than We Realize

Academic studies can be fascinating… and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background

Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but their ubiquity doesn’t protect them from gendered discrimination and sexual harassment, especially in male-dominated work environments. And women don’t have to face outright sexual coercion or blatant bigotry to know what this is like — when so-called “harmless” sexist jokes and comments are tolerated, the female workforce suffers the consequences.

The question is: When it comes to the impact on women’s psyches, how do the subtler, more pervasive experiences of sexism compare to the more intense and sexually violent, albeit rarer, forms of gendered harassment at work? In a new study, researchers from the University of Melbourne explored this question.

The Setup

Researchers analyzed 88 workplace studies published from 1985 to 2012 with 93 independent samples and 73,877 participants. While going through all of this past research, they were specifically analyzing three things as they applied to female participants: occupational well-being (like their job satisfaction, relationships with co-workers and physical/psychological health), harmful workplace experiences (like instances of various forms of harassment and sexism) and job stressors (like tedious tasks and job uncertainty).

Then, the researchers used meta-analysis techniques to identify patterns in the 88 studies as they related to those three variables.

The Findings

After analyzing data from the 73,877 workers, the researchers found that sexist work environments negatively affected women’s occupational well-being (duh?). But here’s where it got interesting: The more common, less intense forms of gender harassment (like office cultures where sexist jokes are tolerated) “appeared as detrimental for women’s occupational well-being” as the less frequent, high-intensity incidents (like sexual coercion and unwanted —> Read More