Never call me sweetheart : a case study on how women educators in secondary schools experience gender-based microaggressions in the workplace.


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Despite significant advances toward gender equality, women have continued to experience gender discrimination regularly. Research revealed that one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace directed toward women were gender-based microaggressions. These common and sometimes well-meaning behaviors are belittling and offensive. While the perpetrator may not even realize they behaved inappropriately, the women felt as though they lacked equal status as a professional in the workplace. Although how women experienced gender bias has been researched in multiple fields, women educators in public schools were not among those. This left a gap in the research. This problem of practice used a detailed qualitative case study to gain insight into the lived experience of three women educators who worked on secondary campuses in the Texas public school system. I wanted to know how women experienced gender-based microaggressions and the results in the workplace. Feminist standpoint theory was used as a framework in order to emphasize the voices of members of a marginalized group. Each participant was interviewed twice, answering both open-ended and scenario-based questions. Participants also documented their most personal stories in the form of journal entries. Using open-ended questions and scenarios gave participants the chance to give detailed data in their own words. Coding resulted in multiple themes common among all participants. The experience of these women in the workplace demonstrated both the depth of the problem and the need for change. Each participant regularly experienced all types of gender-based microaggressions, which resulted in negative outcomes in the workplace. These women endured a wide range of offensive and belittling behavior; they adjusted workplace behavior, endured retaliation, and even questioned themselves as educators. The results not only supported current research, but proved that positive change is needed. An expanded definition of discriminatory behavior and more detailed training would help to identify, target, and reduce these behaviors in the workplace.