Event Recap - Understanding Sexism in Utah

Speaking up against sexism can be a powerful force for reducing gender inequity. Raising awareness of the widespread occurrence and damaging effects of sexist language, comments, beliefs, and behaviors can reduce the frequency of sexism in our workplaces, neighborhoods, communities, and state.

The Utah Women & Leadership Project’s (UWLP) second Fall Women’s Leadership Forum, “Understanding Sexism in Utah,” highlighted the findings of five research briefs created after surveying more than 1,700 Utah women representing diverse settings, backgrounds, and situations.

Dr. Susan R. Madsen, founder and director of UWLP, moderated the Oct. 10 panel comprised of Robbyn Scribner, co-founder and director of outreach for Tech-Moms; Deneiva Knight, CEO of EluVen Ventures and director of external affairs for Comcast; and Heather Sundahl, a marriage and family therapist with Progressive Paths Therapy.

Madsen said that women in Utah experience sexism every day. “The survey contains actual comments from women all over the state,” said Scribner. “We, as a state, have a lot to learn so we can grow together and get better together.”

Reading women’s experiences with sexism was overwhelming for Sundahl. “I was not prepared for it – it was so overwhelming that I could only read them for a certain amount of time.”

Knight said that sexism impacts women of all ages, industries, and places in their careers. She said it causes women to have self-doubt and blame themselves for the things happening at work.

The survey results were compiled into five research briefs:

  1. Study introduction and overview
  2. Inequity and bias
  3. Objectification
  4. Stereotypes
  5. Undervaluing women

Inequity and Bias

Knight: “Women find themselves self-shielding to navigate some sexism complexities at the workplace. This causes women to feel more burnout and quit their positions.” 

Scriber: “Inequity bias includes not only gender but also race, weight, age, disabilities – all of which are additional layers of discrimination.”

Sundahl: “It’s very female for us to give someone the benefit of the doubt when they make a sexist comment. A lot of women think it’s their fault, and beat themselves up because they didn’t call it out at the moment.”  


Knight: “As women, we are always being judged on our appearances, on our every word, and the tone with which we speak. A man can be in the same meeting, use the same words and tone, and it is viewed completely differently. Women do not feel they have the same support as men in the workplace.”

Scribner: “Another area that came up was women being left out of workplace experiences such as networking. Women are often left out of these kinds of experiences because they were not seen as a colleague, but seen as a sexual object.”


Scriber: “This area included how stay-at-home women looked down on women who work, and vice versa. Women are often pitted against each other. This came through strongly.”

Knight: It is critical to get to know the women we work with and the women we lead. It is a privilege to have a choice to stay home for some mothers. There are a lot of women who do not have that choice. As women, we need to support each other.”

Undervaluing Women

Sundahl: “Some women feel like they must overcompensate to prove their value. Do what you must do in the workplace, but you will also need some self-care. Find like-minded people that allow you to share how you feel and validate your feelings.”

Scriber: “This research tells a very powerful story. It is hard to dismiss the more than 1,700 comments that women were brave enough to share with us.”

The five research briefs can be found at https://www.usu.edu/uwlp/research/briefs, starting with brief 38.

To view the entire forum, click on the YouTube link below.

You can also find more recordings of our past events on our website.

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