Here’s how women are affected by microaggressions at work

Oct 11, 2023, 5:00 PM

About three in every four women experience microaggressions....

Women experience microaggressions at work more often than their male counterparts. (Adobe Stock)

(Adobe Stock)

A new report on women in the workplace found 78% of women have said they experience “microaggressions” at work.

What are microaggressions?

“Sometimes they’re called microinequities,” Dr. Susan Madsen, founder and director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project said. “They’re subtle things, things like interrupting. What we know from the research is that when women are in meetings with more men at the table, they are interrupted much more than men are interrupted. They’re discounted in many ways.”

Madsen offered an example.

“You hear this from almost every woman — they’ve been in a meeting, and they share an idea, and people don’t tune in,” she said. “Then, 10 minutes later, a man says a similar or exactly the same idea, and people respond with ‘Oh, that’s a great idea!'”

How are women affected by microaggressions?

“It can also happen with eliciting input,” Madsen explained. “If you are going to men mostly and trying to get input, that’s a microaggression of sorts. You’re not asking women for input. They have to be more pushy.”

Another example is just being excluded. Whether it’s being excluded from lunch or even hallway conversations, it makes you feel like you’re not valued.

“There is research on multi-tasking,” Madsen said. “Sometimes you will multi-task during conversations with some people, but when certain people come up, we give them our full attention. Research says we tend to multitask with people we don’t have as much respect for.”

Have you ever met someone or are talking to someone at a gathering, and they are looking over your head to see if there is someone more interesting in the room? Yep, that’s a microaggression.

“Just your body language can fit this category,” said Madsen. “Eye contact. The way you use your hands. Often we don’t know we’re treating certain people differently.”

Madsen also pointed to the inappropriate questions that women get.

Women running for office in Utah get absolutely different questions from men. ‘How can you juggle it?’ ‘How can you do this to your children?’ ‘How can you leave your children?’ Men don’t get these kinds of questions.”

Death by 1,000 cuts

Research shows that microaggressions contribute to depression and health problems, including high blood pressure.

“When you have stress, when you know you’re working hard and your ideas are not getting heard, and you feel discounted, you feel like you don’t belong,” Madsen explained. “That stress rolls over into your health in life and your overall well-being.”

Microaggressions also lower productivity.

“You can do it for only so long, but if you’re in a workplace environment where you feel microaggressions or microinequities, it can really impact you,” Madsen said. “It’s related to job turnover. I’ve had CEOs here in Utah say, ‘Hey, we hire women, but they don’t stay. How can we get them to stay?’ And I say to them, ‘Describe the culture of your organization.’ And it’s so masculine, but it’s invisible. Women will say, ‘I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t belong.’ Although many of them do know what it was.”

Critics call this “macrononsense

There are critics of this research, those who claim there are no such things as microaggressions. Madsen responded to those critics.

“The research has been going on in this area for decades,” she said. “We know now that this is challenging. When a woman experiences being ignored or her ideas being taken by other people, that’s a real thing that has consequences.”

Some women have told Madsen that they experience microaggressions every day. They call it “everyday sexism.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


emergency savings account...

Curt Gresseth

Should employers match an emergency-savings account for employees?

A Utah financial planner outlines a new law allowing an emergency-savings account, with a matching employer contribution.

20 hours ago

A Salt Lake County woman filed a lawsuit claiming a COVID-19 vaccine dose five-times larger than th...

Emily Ashcroft

Lawsuit: Woman says she received full vial of COVID vaccine; CVS subsidiary claims immunity

According to the lawsuit, a new employee was being trained and was directed to prepare the vaccine while the nurse training her worked on paperwork.

2 days ago

How Utah schools handle inversion...

Allessandra Harris

How Utah schools keep kids safe during inversion season

An inversion is expected this week across the Wasatch Front. Utah schools say they will keep students inside if the air quality gets bad.

2 days ago

Smog settles over Salt Lake City during an inversion on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. With Utah's winte...

Allessandra Harris & Devin Oldroyd

Inversion may worsen this week, NWS says

With Utah's wintery temperatures this week, there will also be some inversion patterns and low air quality in the valleys.

2 days ago

How to tell if the melon is ripe...


FDA expands cantaloupe recall after salmonella infections double in a week

The number of people sickened by salmonella from cut and whole cantaloupes has more than doubled in a week, with 99 infections across the U.S.

5 days ago

turkey and thanksgiving dinner shown -- food safety is especially important around the holidays...

Eric Cabrera

Food safety tips to keep in mind on Thanksgiving

Food safety is important as we enter the holiday season because food poisoning cases spike around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Here’s how women are affected by microaggressions at work