I was fortunate to present at this year’s annual conference for the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (CALPCC) in San Francisco, CA, March 20-21, 2018. The conference had a social justice theme, focusing in the historically marginalized communities. My presentation examined women in the workplace as targets of misogynistic microaggressions. Following are the abstract, outline, and introduction of my presentation.
In spite of decades-old legal mandates, recent media have revealed a persistent misogyny among the powerful male ranks in nearly every work sector, particularly government, business, and entertainment. Modeling these leaders, hostility throughout all levels of the organization can permeate. Sometimes this hostility is blatant and more easily identified. Other times it appears more subtle, in the form of microaggressions, the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults… which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages. An entire generation removed from the ERA movement, it seems as if the American workplace has slipped backwards. This presentation looks at the historical context, today’s multigenerational misogynic backlash, and the intervening workplace applications that can help mitigate abuse and foster organizational health.
- Historical Context of ERA movement
- Misogyny in the workplace
- Three forms of microaggressions
- Ten types of gender-based microaggressions
- Three territories of microaggression intervention
For decades, laws have prohibited sexual discrimination in the workplace. “The Civil Rights Acts, as well as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, prohibit discrimination based on sex” (Aamodt, 2016). Yet, in spite of the decades-old legal mandates, gender diversity continues to be a major concern. In a sobering 2017 report, Woman in the workplace, Consulting giant Mckinsey&Company, revealed that little progress has been made when it comes to workplace gender diversity.
Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years and counting. There is a pressing need to do more…
In recent months, media have revealed a persistent misogyny among the powerful male ranks in nearly every work sector, particularly government, business, and entertainment. Unfortunately, employees throughout organizations model behavior of its leadership, even when it is discriminatory and demeaning. As social science reveals, “observational learning teaches us that people will observe and then repeat the behavior of models and especially those models who are high status and reinforced for their behavior” (T. Plante, 2017).
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, echoed the alarm. “Thirty years after women became fifty percent of the college graduate in the United State, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry” (S. Sandberg, 2013)
This supposed lack of human capital is said to result in a dearth of qualified women, sometimes called a “pipeline problem.” However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that women are indeed in the pipeline but that the pipeline is leaking. (Northouse, 2016)
When women do assert themselves, and vie for leadership roles, they often experience resistance, sometimes blatant, other times subtle. “Women face significant gender biases and social disincentives when they self-promote and negotiate. Unlike men, for example, self-promoting women are seen as less socially attractive and less hirable” (Northouse, 2016)
Microaggressions are a form of resistant disdain often felt toward aspiring women in the workplace. This subtle form of hostility stemming from this misogynistic resistance, can have just as strong of an impact as more overt forms of harassment. Columbia University psychology professor Dr. Derald Wing Sue explains that:
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
As I do whenever possible, I took my wife along. The day after the conference ended, we enjoyed a perfect day at Golden Gate Park – quite a breath of fresh air!