Methods: Five qualitative semi-structured focus groups (N=23) were conducted with undergraduate women from a large research university in California. The inclusion criteria included 18-25 years old, self-identification as a woman, and current undergraduate enrollment at [university blinded]. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 24 (M=19.7, SD=1.7) and identified as White (n=11), Asian/Asian American (n=5), Latina (n=3), Black (n=2), and multiracial (n=2). The majority of participants identified as heterosexual (n=15), followed by bisexual (n=5), pansexual (n=1), queer (n=1), and demi-heterosexual (n=1). The discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed. Themes were coded and analyzed using Dedoose. Directed content analysis was performed. A priori codes based on existing microaggressions taxonomies were used and emergent themes were identified.
Results: Five gender microaggressions themes emerged as the most relevant to a college campus environment. Three of these themes were consistent with Capodilupo and colleagues (2010) gender microaggression taxonomy: (1) assumption of traditional gender roles, (2) environmental invalidations, and (3) sexual objectification. Two themes were novel and had not been discussed previously in the literature: (1) infrastructure failure and (2) male dominance. As assumption of traditional gender roles was such a dominant theme, four sub-themes were identified to further delineate this theme: (1) caretaker/nurturer, (2) women dominated occupations, (3) weak/“damsel in distress”, and (4) presumed incompetence.
Conclusions and Implications: Identifying new themes and refining the existing gender microaggressions taxonomy with population specific (e.g., undergraduate women) qualitative data is critical to the comprehensive conceptualization necessary for rigorous empirical study and measurement design. With this increased rigor, practitioners and researchers can approach prevention, intervention, and scholarship with more tools to enact lasting change. Disrupting gender microaggressive climates holds the possibility of improving undergraduate women’s sense of belonging on campus, increasing the accessibility of majors and career paths traditionally dominated by men, and improving their academic performance. A refined taxonomy for gender microaggressions on campus establishes a framework for measure development and testing, increasing that capacity of social work researchers to assess and address campus climate.