25% Of Women in the Workplace Endure ‘Frequent’ Sexist Incidents

  • And It’s Not Just From Men – 33% Of Women Say the Most Sexist Thing They’ve Heard Is From Another Woman

Even though women are breaking into more senior management positions and many other women report to them, sexism is alive and well in the American workplace.

A recent study by employee listening leader Perceptyx of more than 1,500 working women shows that daily microaggressions are a fact of life for most women, ranging from having their expertise questioned, to lewd jokes, to unwanted touching. Two-thirds of women report they experience sexist behavior at least sometimes, and 25% report three or more offensive behaviors “frequently” or “always”.

While men are often the perpetrators of a sexist incident at work, female managers and coworkers aren’t without fault. One third of women report that the most sexist thing they have ever heard in the workplace came out of the mouth of another woman.

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“It was surprising that while the majority of women actually report to female managers, they still experience sexist behavior as part of workplace culture,” said Emily Killham, Director of Research and Insights at Perceptyx. “These behaviors are sometimes seen as ‘not serious’ because they fall into a microaggressions category. But a culture of disrespect for women actually has a greater impact on morale and retention than misconduct that might be considered harassment — and it’s much harder to root out.”

Meetings were identified as a prime environment where sexist incidents might happen, including being interrupted or being asked to take notes when it’s not a normal job responsibility.

One out of every five women (19%) report that they get interrupted or talked over in meetings frequently, and more than twice that number (42%) say it happens “at least sometimes.”

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Getting interrupted has women heading for the exits

These behaviors, which often fall short of sexual harassment as it’s defined in many HR manuals, still have a very high cost for companies: high attrition among women employees. Women who are interrupted often are half as likely to be fully engaged in their jobs, half as likely to feel like they belong, and are four times as likely to report being burnt out.

“There’s a clear link between attrition rates and the frequency of sexist behavior in the workplace,” said Killham. “Losing women valuable to the organization, and the costs associated with that loss, are completely avoidable once an organization pays attention to what women’s experience is during everyday work interactions. Two sexist incidents in a week is enough to send women looking for greener (more respectful) pastures.”

The presence of just one sign of disrespect on a regular basis nearly doubles the chance that an employee will exit the organization within six months – add one more sign of disrespect, and it triples the chances.

Perceptyx recommends taking these actions to avoid your own Great Resignation over sexist comments in the workplace:

  • Create and model a culture of respect. Yearly policy training is not enough.
  • Ask people what names they prefer to be called and make it a habit to use them on a regular basis.
  • Keep control over crosstalk in meetings and make sure each person can weigh in without interruption.
  • Make salary transparency your policy. One-quarter of women said that discussing pay in their organization is grounds for termination. Transparency improves retention and engagement, and most importantly, equity.

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[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]