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Researchers analyze types of sexist comments heard in Utah workplaces

Mar 8, 2022, 7:52 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2023, 12:41 pm

LOGAN, UtahComments that reinforce stereotypes about women and undervalue their contributions in the workplace are common in Utah. That’s according to a study being done at Utah State University.

Researchers heard from about a thousand women, and now, they’re taking over 1,700 comments that they heard, categorizing them into the more common types that were heard, and the impact they have in the workplace.

The words we use matter.

“He said that women are too irrational and emotional to be good legislators.”

Some words may demean others, or talk down.

“He told me that I was pretty good at math for a girl.”

Dr. Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project at USU, said these are just a couple of examples of what women actually heard in the workplace.

“They’re really judgmental,” she said.

Dr. Susan Madsen

They’re comments that reinforce stereotypes about women, mostly said by men, but some that women may put on themselves or others.

“You are choosing to abandon your kids every time you go to work.”

They’re phrases that make assumptions about others.

The Utah Women and Leadership Project is taking a close look at sexism in Utah and the impact it has.

Another category — comments that undervalue women.

“A manager said, ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ve got this.'”

Madsen said in many cases, women were considered less-competent than men, or sometimes assumed that they were at the table merely as some kind of an affirmative-action requirement.

“I laughed at reading these, like, really, does this happen?” Madsen said.

But it does, and that’s why Madsen said it’s important to take a close look at why those words are being used.

“And I think the more that we’re respectful, the more we can create an inclusive environment,” she said.

And look at where some of those bad habits can be thrown out.

“So that more people in Utah can thrive,” she said.

Madsen said by bringing these comments to light, the hope is that more people will speak up.

She said, though, that it doesn’t have to be done confrontationally — sometimes a joke or a friendly reminder can be enough to make people more aware of what they’re saying and how to fix it.

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Researchers analyze types of sexist comments heard in Utah workplaces