Challenging Gendered Microaggressions in the Academy: A Social–Ecological Analysis of Bystander Action Among Faculty

Michelle C. Haynes-Baratz, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Meg A. Bond, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Christopher T. Allen, Kennesaw State University
Yun Ling Li, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Despite increasing numbers, women faculty are still underrepresented at higher ranks and in leadership positions in the professoriate. Recent research suggests that gendered microaggressions, a particular expression of subtle gender bias, have a powerful, cumulative negative impact on women faculty’s access to research support and advancement. Bystander interventions are a promising avenue to mitigate their impact. However, little is known about the factors that encourage and/or present barriers to bystander action around microaggressions in the academic work environment—arguably, critical information required in order to design an effective workplace intervention program. A series of 12 semistructured interviews were conducted to explore faculty’s current action (or inaction) in response to witnessing microaggressions. Employing a social–ecological lens, findings suggest that facilitators and barriers to bystander action exist at the individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels. Implications for the development of workplace bystander intervention programs in the academy are discussed.