“I deal with microaggressions every day. I just hold my head high and try to move past the BS.”
Studies suggest that racial discrimination and gender bias affect mental and physical health, and have been linked to high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. And although women of color might experience discrimination or bias separately, it's not uncommon for there to be both at the same time.
So, in the interest of showing how pervasive these behaviors are in so many different workplaces, here are some stories about these issues as well as some ways that women deal with them.
“My manager actually used the term ‘money whore’ when trying to convince me to stay where I was.”
I am a creative, progressively minded female in a deep red, science-based, male-dominated industry. Once I was offered another job different from my own, but within my company, and my manager actually used the term “money whore” when trying to convince me to stay where I was — he was offering me more money, which I desperately needed. I took the other position for less money, and just under a year later, I have been offered yet another position in the same company with a salary way more than I thought I would ever make here.
Uberimages / Getty Images
All of my experiences with discrimination and gender bias are nuanced; every conversation adds a new layer. I'm a school psychologist, and have lived all over the US, but constantly run into ignorance in Utah, where I guess being a woman of color with a graduate degree and professional experience is exotic. My staff seemed surprised to know that I existed upon meeting me, and they didn't hide their shock. I'm constantly second-guessed, until I start quoting law and rattling off all the places I've practiced. I try not to focus on it all the time, but some people are really rattled by my presence and comfort in my own skin.
—Casey D., Facebook
I am half-white and half-Polynesian (Samoan and Hawaiian), and I work at Starbucks. I once handed a coffee to a white man, and he looked at the logo and said, “Huh, looks like you” under his breath. I laughed out of fear and awkwardness. He aggressively took the cup from my hand, spilling it on my hand, and said, “Not a compliment.” Then he just left.
“A few coworkers and I were excited to see Black Panther, and my supervisor became VERY uncomfortable.”
From my supervisor assuming that I'm lazy to calling me by another black woman's name, I deal with microaggressions every day. I just hold my head high and try to move past the BS. A few coworkers and I were excited to see Black Panther, and my supervisor became VERY uncomfortable because she thought we were discussing the movement. I will have the last laugh when I leave for something better. But until then, bring it on.
Marvel / Via giphy.com
One time I went to a conference with my two male employees. They introduced me to another man there who was from another organization so that I could tell him about some initiatives I was directing. The guy ignored me and asked my employees questions about MY project the entire time. When I gave input, he didn't listen at all.
Currently, I’m getting underpaid by about $13,000 a year compared to a male coworker who has the same position, same credentials, and same experience as me. Both of us, as well as some others on my team, collectively deal with it by showing our employer that we are aware of it and will not tolerate it. We went to our union with the information and they're going to try to negotiate equal pay starting in March. If they cannot change anything, we'll continue to show a unified front by taking the legal route.
Both new coworkers and clients automatically assume that I'm an intern or someone's part-time assistant rather than a salaried employee with a grad degree. Whether I'm in the office or on the road, questions come up like, “So you're an intern?” or “When do you finish up school?” They'll even ask if my company contracted me to work to meet diversity requirements. I got so tired of responding to these ignorant assumptions that I've started nicely replying, “What makes you think that?” At that point, they'll usually start fumbling — I think it makes them realize their subtle prejudice.
“My girls and I have a secret messenger group to let out our rage.”
It's the one place we can be REALLY honest.
Bravo / Via giphy.com
I use to work for a Catholic diocese. There were so few black people there that out of seven floors, there were less than 40 of us. We all kept close to each other; visiting each other's desks, sitting together at work functions. Self-segregating and checking on each other daily was a matter of mental survival. There were times where I had to walk away from my desk in tears of pure anger because of things white coworkers would say. Thankfully, I'm no longer there. I definitely recommend that black women try to look for jobs in environments where you see others who look like you.
—Lauron Thomas, Facebook
I worked in retail a couple years ago, and part of our training was to go into other stores to see how promptly customers are greeted. I went into this one store and browsed around for about eight minutes before one of the employees came up to me to tell me that they had cameras in the store.
My girlfriend had just started her new job. She’s a bartender, and this creepy older dude kept hitting on her. When she finally told him that she was gay and that she had a girlfriend, he got extremely offended, and said, “How do you think it makes me feel that the most attractive girl in this bar doesn't like men?”
—Kristen Ciambella, Facebook
“After telling me how his job is so much harder than mine, he commented on my hair.”
After wearing my hair naturally for the first time at my new job, one of my coworkers came into my office and, after telling me how his job is so much harder than mine, he commented on my hair. “What are you, growing dreadlocks or something?” he asked.
“Excuse me, I'm sorry what?” I said.
“Are you growing dreadlocks? Decide not to wash your hair? Looking a little unkempt or nappy, don't you think?”
For the whole conversation, I had been turned away, but at this point I quickly whipped my head around. “I don't know why you think it's appropriate to make such a clearly racist comment to the only person of color that works in this entire company,” I told him. “So I think you should apologize for such a racist and insensitive comment.” He did, sheepishly, and hasn't come back into my office since.
—Nina G. Salvaggio, Facebook
Fox Searchlight Pictures / Via giphy.com
I'm a server. My height (5’3″) makes every guy think I can’t possibly do things on my own. Like it's crazy I can lift a tray with so many plates. So when I'm reaching for something or lifting massive amounts of plates with one hand over my head, I laugh. At the people who believe women can't do what men do easily. At the people who tell me to “be careful not to break a nail.” At the people who clearly have no idea I'm a strong, independent woman, and I've got this.
“Whenever a guy gets an attitude about something I’ve done, I ask they are PMSing and offer them some chocolate.”
Whenever a guy gets an attitude about something I've done, especially if they made a comment about playing the “woman card” before, I ask if they are PMSing and offer them some chocolate.
Oxygen / Via media.giphy.com
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.