A microaggression is a statement, action or incident that is regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, intentional or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group; statements and behaviours that communicate a negative message about that group. To take just one statistical example 64% of women and 71% of Lesbian women have experienced workplace microaggressions (Lean In’s Women in the Workplace Report 2018)
Examples would include:
- Using a slur such as “That’s so gay”
- Ignoring, or being dismissive of, a woman’s contribution in a meeting
- Telling a disabled person that they’re “so brave”
- Using a ‘positive’ stereotype such as assuming a gay man must be a fashion expert, or an Asian must be good at maths.
- Not using a trans person’s correct name and pronouns.
The term ‘micro’ is in and of itself problematic. Even single acts of microaggression can be distressing but more often, by their very covert nature, they happen repeatedly, and we know that the cumulative effect can be hugely impactful on the recipient.
Liz Stokoe, Professor of Social Interaction at Loughborough, has developed this guide to help us all ‘call out’ inappropriate language and behaviour – ‘How to say when it’s not OK’.
This BBC guide also provides some great examples of the sorts of microaggressions often experienced by different groups.
As we work to developing a campus culture that is truly inclusive, where all colleagues feel that they can thrive, it is important that we all play our role in saying when it’s not OK and eradicating workplace microaggressions.
David Wilson and Adèle MacKinlay
*Article available to read here.