Your colleague Jim calls you “honey,” makes cracks about women drivers, and suggests that you be the one to shop for the retirement gift for Bob because “women like that sort of thing.” A lot of the sexism that women encounter in the workplace looks like this – comments that are not necessarily meant to cause insult or discomfort, uttered by otherwise decent enough male coworkers who you generally like. But they are harmful nonetheless, because they perpetuate stereotypic views of women’s preferences and abilities. If you found yourself in a situation like this, what would you do?
While we’d all like to believe that we would confront anyone who said something sexist (or otherwise bigoted) to us personally, the truth is that it rarely happens. For instance, in one study, 68% of women said that they would refuse to answer sexually harassing questions in a job interview, and 28% said they would openly confront the interviewer. But when the interview actually happened, all of the women answered the offensive questions, and not one confronted the interviewer.