Covert and overt forms of sexism are equally damaging to working women

Harmful Workplace Experiences and Women’s Occupational Wellbeing: A Meta-Analysis,

From The Psychology of Women Quarterly

Frequent sexist wisecracks, comments and office cultures where women are ignored are just as damaging to women as single instances of sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, according to this study. It analyses 88 independent studies of a combined 73,877 working women.

“Norms, leadership, or policies, that reduce intense harmful experiences may lead managers to believe that they have solved the problem of maltreatment of women in the workplace,” wrote the study authors Dr. Victor E. Sojo, Dr. Robert E. Wood and Anna E. Genat. “However, the more frequent, less intense, and often unchallenged gender harassment, sexist discrimination, sexist organizational climate and organizational tolerance for sexual harassment appeared at least as detrimental for women’s wellbeing. They should not be considered lesser forms of sexism.”

The authors further wrote: “Our results suggest that organizations should have zero tolerance for low intensity sexism, the same way they do for overt harassment. This will require teaching workers about the harmful nature of low intensity sexist events, not only for women, but also for the overall organizational climate.”


We report a meta-analytic review of studies examining the relations among harmful workplace experiences and women’s occupational well-being. Based on previous research, a classification of harmful workplace experiences affecting women is proposed and then used in the analysis of 88 studies with 93 independent samples, containing 73,877 working women. We compare the associations of different harmful workplace experiences and job stressors with women’s work attitudes and health. Random-effects meta-analysis and path analysis showed that more intense yet less frequent harmful experiences (e.g., sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention) and less intense but more frequent harmful experiences (e.g., sexist organizational climate and gender harassment) had similar negative effects on women’s well-being. Harmful workplace experiences were independent from and as negative as job stressors in their impact on women’s occupational well-being. The power imbalance between the target and the perpetrator appeared as a potential factor to explain the type and impact of harmful workplace experiences affecting women’s occupational well-being. In the discussion, we identify several gaps in the literature, suggest directions for future research, and suggest organizational policy changes and interventions that could be effective at reducing the incidence of harmful workplace experiences. Additional online materials for this article are available to PWQ subscribers on PWQ’s website at


Read this article for free

Article details
Victor E. Sojo, Robert E. Wood, and Anna E. Genat
Harmful Workplace Experiences and Women’s Occupational Well-being: A Meta-Analysis
Psychology of Women Quarterly 0361684315599346, first published on August 27, 2015 doi:10.1177/0361684315599346




This entry was posted in Gender & Sexuality, Psychology, SAGE Insight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply