Working Women Still Suffering “Death by 1,000 Cuts”

Par Camille | Dernière modification : octobre 22, 2021

While overt sexual harassment persists, less discussed—but no less significant—is the problem that women trying to ascend the corporate, partnership, and/or management level often suffer “death by a thousand cuts,” which delays their advancement and contributes to their decisions to leave the workplace.

That’s the theme of this past Sunday’s New York Times article “How Everyday Sexism Harms Women.” In the article, the authors distinguish the “outright discrimination” to hiring and advancement, from the “small indignities women experience day after day.”

Indeed, “[B]ias doesn’t happen once or twice; it happens day after day, week after week,” wrote the NYT reporters. And, citing to a study by the American Bar Association, the bias engendered may increase or widen depending on the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, disability, or other intersectional aspect.

(Note: “intersectional” means the overlap of individual characteristics.)

Amy, Haven’t You Written About This Topic? Isn’t Such Conduct A Form Of Sex Discrimination?

I have, and it could be.

Reading the article inspired me to examine some past blog posts and articles on this same topic as well as solutions I’ve offered to employers. Here are a few:

There is so much more.

The NYT article summarizes less overt sex discrimination in the workplace with similar examples, explaining that their research showed:

As we wrote about here and here, such microaggressions may include failing to hear a woman’s ideas in a strategy meeting until the same ideas are later expressed by a man. It’s failing to promote a woman for being “strident,” yet promoting a man for being “aggressive.”

Women can’t win, it seems.

What Are the Organizational Results Of Gender-Based Microaggressions?

Such microaggressions lead to organizational disparities over time, with women cut out of management and other leadership positions.

Indeed, McKinsey and LeanIn released their latest annual Women in the Workplace study with findings from 65,000 employees at 423 companies. It includes considerable insight as to how men and women experience the workplace differently, including an intersectional analysis of the experience of women of color, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ women.

The 2020 McKinsey report seems to confirm the observations of the NYT article authors as it notes,“There is still a ‘broken rung’ at the first step up to manager. Since 2016, we have seen the same trend: women are promoted to manager at far lower rates than men.”

And there’s more.

The NYT article claims that research shows that in many fields, a greater proportion of men correlates with increased bias against women. Remember, we’ve examined this organizational cultural phenomenon in posts about how prevent sexual harassment.

Actual new words have been invented to address these microaggressions (see above, e.g., manterruption), but let’s call it what it really is—sexism.

What Can Employers Do To Alleviate These Strains On Women?

Amplification spotlights women’s voices and ideas and enables them to be credited appropriately. Here are others:

In fact, the NYT authors said the same, “What works? Having managers directly mentor and sponsor women improves their chance to rise.”

Similarly, having manager mentors intervene when they notice microaggressions would go a long way. Bystander intervention interrupts the casual or accepted sexist treatment of women and those who identify as women.

Yes! Not only does leadership commitment work to ameliorate bias, but it also helps prevent discrimination and harassment. You see, when anti-discrimination and a refusal to tolerate unlawful harassment comes from the very top of an organization, it demonstrates commitment to employees from the C-Suite to the mailroom to maintain a culture of respect for all.

Employers, it’s up to you to stop the microaggressions: stop leaving women out of important meetings and off emails, and stop requiring women do more work than men to get ahead. Start now.

This piece originally appeared on FisherBroyles, and was republished here with permission.