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Marc Halusic

How to Reduce Sexism: The Latest Research

A new JSI issue explores techniques that can reduce sexism in the real world.

Many women routinely experience small sexist incidents that may be minor in themselves but have a cumulative effect on their well-being and career trajectories. Women are told to “smile more,” or that “they’re overreacting” or “being bitchy.” They’re asked to take notes during meetings or to plan the office party. They’re expected to be more committed to their family life and less devoted than male colleagues to their work. Over time, these daily hassles can make women feel depressed, angry and anxious.

Yet there has been surprisingly little research on the best ways to confront and reduce sexism. The latest issue of the Journal of Social Issues provides an overview of the field and introduces some cutting-edge research on interventions that work.

In “Using Experiential Learning to Increase the Recognition of Everyday Sexism as Harmful,” Jessica Cundiff et al explore the impact of different programs to educate participants about the harms of subtle sexism in the academic workplace. Subjects who participated in an experiential learning program called  WAGES were less likely to reject the information provided and more likely to feel they capable of intervening successfully when sexist incidents occur (click here to watch Jessica Cundiff describe this project) .   

In “Ways to Go: Men’s and Women’s Support for Aggressive and Non-aggressive Confrontation of Sexism as a function of Gender Identification,” Julia Becker and Manuela Barreto examine how men and women react to different sorts of responses to sexist behavior. Both men and women favored an assertive over an aggressive or non-response. Two groups especially disliked the aggressive response: women who do not strongly identify with other women and men who have a strong male in-group identification.  

NiCole T. Buchannan et al review the U.S. military’s response to sexual harassment. Drawing on Defense Department’s survey’s on the frequency, reporting and outcomes of sexual harassment over 20 years, the authors find that the most important element to successfully combating harassment is clear and consistent anti-harassment message from organizational leaders.