A Target-Centered Approach to Confronting Workplace Sexism
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Scholars have argued that confronting sexism will result in several positive outcomes for women targets (e.g., Dray & Sabat, 2020). However, little research has empirically examined this proposition or whether these confrontations of sexism are more beneficial than confrontations of general mistreatment. Furthermore, there is a lack of understanding on how to confront sexism such that targets experience the most positive outcomes, and whether confrontations of sexism should differ from confrontations of more general mistreatment. The current study fills this gap by examining whether (a) confrontations of sexism can buffer against the negative effects of this form of prejudice, (b) confrontations of sexism are more beneficial for targets than confrontations of incivility, (c) differences in the style of confrontation (i.e., tone of confrontation, identity of confronter, and number of confronters) impact target outcomes (i.e., anxiety, achievement aspirations, self-efficacy, and performance), and (d) differences in the style of confrontation interact with the type of mistreatment experienced to impact target outcomes. To test these relationships, data were collected from 241 undergraduate students participating in an interactive, online experiment on Zoom. Results demonstrated that targets of sexism exhibited lower self-efficacy compared to both individuals who do not experience mistreatment and targets of general incivility, and, contrary to study hypotheses, lower anxiety compared to individuals who do not experience mistreatment. Also contradicting study hypotheses, the type of mistreatment experienced did not interact with whether or not a confrontation occurred nor with the type of confrontation to impact target outcomes. Further, neither the tone of confrontation, identity of confronter, number of confronters, nor whether or not a confrontation occurred had an impact on target outcomes. This study contributes to the call for more research on evidence-based strategies to combat sexism that do not place the onus of responsibility on women. This program of research may also benefit practitioners and employees by informing empirically based diversity and ally training programs, which are needed to improve outcomes among all stigmatized targets.
Dray, Kelly K. (2021). A Target-Centered Approach to Confronting Workplace Sexism. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from