Hundreds of Utah women share experiences with sexism in series of reports


A woman said a man told her she was “getting a little fat” and suggested she go for a run on her lunch break. Another was told by a man she managed that she was “not a real executive. You are just ticking a box. “

After misplacing her breast pump at work, a woman said: “My manager said I could go in the back with a colleague and she could ‘milk me’.

These are some of the responses that researchers from the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University collected from 839 women in Beehive State, in an online survey between May and June 2020.

On Wednesday, researchers published final reports in one series of five memoirs examining Utah women’s experiences with sexism and how they responded.

The goal – according to the reports’ authors, Robbyn Scribner, April Townsend and Susan Madsen – is to educate people about how sexism demeans and disempowers women, and “to equip women with the tools they need to better combat the sexism they suffer”. day by day.”

Overall, most sexist comments were made by men (84.6%) and in the workplace (58.2%). They were also more likely to come from someone who had authority or influence over the person (51.3%) and who were between the ages of 46 and 59 (35.5%), according to the report.

The researchers divided the responses into four general categories: inequity and bias; objectification; stereotypes; and underestimate women.

Full reports are available at Here are quotes from some Utah women about how they have dealt with sexism in their lives.

Inequity and prejudice

“I was visibly pregnant when my husband and I applied for a construction loan. The loan officer told me that he was not comfortable including my income as part of our loan application review because given my condition, he was certain that I would stay home and I would lose that income.

“A client once told me in no uncertain terms that he would really rather work with a man, ‘just because, you know, it’s accounting.'”

“A colleague said: ‘The best news about the (new employee) is that he doesn’t have a womb.’ I was days away from giving birth and going on maternity leave.

“My boss told me that he wouldn’t hire women in their twenties who are married, or who may be married soon, because they will end up taking maternity leave. And even if they come back to work, it’s too disruptive.


“When I was an executive director in the state government of Utah, a married man elected from another branch of government asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him in his luxury sports car. He followed up the invitation with the statement, “You know, anyone who gets in the passenger seat of my car goes topless.”

“At a conference where I was about to present, the host was having trouble with the mic, and I went to help fix it and I had to duck my head under the podium and he said: “While you’re there….””

“I was looking for a place to sit at a conference we were both attending. He and I were both members of a city council although for different cities. He patted his knees and told me I could sit there.

“A colleague told me the reason I got promoted was because of my chest size.”


“I heard my supervisor once tell the boss that he wished they didn’t have to hire women because women ‘just cause drama’.”

“I was assembling furniture at home and my son’s friend said to me, ‘You can’t do that; You’re a girl. You have to wait for your husband to come home.

“A male boss said, ‘If you get pregnant, you’ll be asked to quit. If you get married while working here and don’t get pregnant after a while, we’ll meet to find out if this job is preventing you from getting pregnant.

“He said, ‘You have to teach women to be critical enough to become engineers; it is against their nature.

underestimating women

“When I played basketball in college, men who had never played organized basketball bragged that they could easily beat me just because they were men.”

“I was told I could attend a supplier meeting, but I shouldn’t comment. If I have information to share, I should speak to my male counterpart and ask him to give my opinion.

“My supervisor called my dad and told him how I was doing as an employee (I was about 25 at the time).”

“I was arguing a case in the Utah Court of Appeals when the opposing attorney tried to argue why my argument was incorrect (normal for attorneys) and kept calling me a ‘little miss’.”

How women say they responded to sexist comments

“I was devastated and said nothing. The meeting ended with the male leader looking satisfied, but I felt available.

“After our discussion, the Bishop said he could see how hurtful a comment like this would be and vowed to be more aware of his bias.”

“My boss asked me to bake cookies for an event. I asked what day he wanted me to leave to bake them. The others started laughing and then he slowly figured out what he had asked of me I was the only woman in the room.

“There are a lot of things I would have liked to say, but I couldn’t, given our power dynamics. I ended up feeling worse and angry.

“After a comment about me staying home with my kids, I replied, ‘How long do you think you’re going to be doing this before you retire to be a stay-at-home dad?'”


Based on the feedback the researchers received, here’s what the authors recommend on how women and male allies can prepare, take action, and speak out against sexist behavior.

“In the moment, it can be difficult to think fast enough to respond,” the report said. “Having a line like, ‘What makes you say that?’ can give you time and shift the focus to the person to explain their thinking.”

“When you hear offensive comments or jokes, push back (preferably within the first two to three seconds),” the authors wrote. “Possible lines include saying, ‘Ouch,’ or, ‘We don’t do that here.'”

“When you observe a man repeatedly interrupting a woman, or when you only see women being asked to do ‘office chores’ like taking notes, report it and offer an alternative,” according to The report.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America body member and writes about the status of women in Utah for the Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here.


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