While certain people like to argue that sexism no longer exists in the workplace, most women would tell you that it is, in fact, alive and well — thriving, some may even say. In fact, a study by the Pew Research Center actually puts a number to it: 42% of women in the US report having faced discrimination on the job due to their gender. While there are many different types of discrimination, one common experience includes inappropriate comments or remarks.
See above: Serena William's reaction to being asked why she wasn't smiling by a reporter at a press conference.
To highlight this, we asked women of the BuzzFeed Community to share their experiences and tell us about the worst thing a man has said to them in a professional setting. We received more than 300 stories in response, all rage-inducing, so here are a few below:
1."I was working for the census and was very frustrated with my boss. He was horrible at his job and very inappropriate with everyone. After a while, I couldn't take it anymore, so I approached him and voiced my concerns. As I did, he mocked me and then said I was sexy when I was mad. It still makes my skin crawl when I think about it. I wanted to go home and bathe in hydrogen peroxide, I felt so dirty. He was in his late 50s, and I was 18."
2."When I was 23, a male coworker in his 60s said to me, 'Oh, you must be here for 'Take Your Child To Work Day.' In reality, I was there to lead the meeting."
—Anonymous, Maryland, 34
3."In 2009, I was hired at my very first office job out of college. My boss, the owner of the company, was a 75-year-old misogynistic jerk. He hired me because he 'didn't want a man behind a desk since they work in the warehouse.' In 2010, I married my husband and took two weeks of vacation for our wedding and honeymoon. When I returned to work, my boss noticeably began treating me rudely and gave almost all of my responsibilities to a new woman whom he'd hired while I was out. About two weeks after I returned, he asked me into the conference room and fired me with no valid reasoning. When I straight-up asked him for an explanation, he said, 'Well, I figured you had quit when you got married so you could stay home, take care of your husband, and have babies. I didn't expect you back.'"
"I was floored and could not believe it. I packed up my shit and left immediately. I was so pissed. I wish I had recorded that conversation so I could sue that old bastard. He was also really creepy toward a couple of the other young women working there.
I recently looked up the company online and found out that his loser son had taken over ownership and run the company into the ground. I smiled." —Anonymous, Oregon, 37
4."I work primarily with cops. When I was 25, I was working a particularly dirty scene and made a comment about how I couldn't wait to go home to take a shower. The cop, who was at least 45, asked me if 'it would be inappropriate to ask if he could take a shower with me.' Yes. Yes, it would."
—Anonymous, Washington, 27
5."In a conversation about why I had been passed over for a promotion, my department head called me 'sweetheart.' We do NOT have anywhere near the kind of relationship where that would be comforting, and I am of the opinion that that is never acceptable in a professional environment — particularly given the context of our conversation. He also rolled his eyes, scoffed, and muttered something about my 'need for validation' when I said that I've never received feedback on my job performance, despite many requests. The cherry on the cake: He told me, 'You're still young. You just need more experience.' Meanwhile, he'd promoted a person who had just graduated university, and I had three years of experience at the time."
—Anonymous, British Columbia, 28
6."One month before the COVID lockdown, I rented office space in a relatively small building. It has about 10 office suites in total. When my also-female business partner and I started working in person, we sent out letters introducing ourselves, etc. None of the other tenants — all of whom are white men over 55 — responded or made any effort to get to know us. Okay, fine. Now, I routinely sit in the lobby while waiting for our new clients to arrive. On at least eight different occasions, another tenant has walked by and asked, 'Are you lost? Who are you waiting on?' I always calmly respond, 'No, I work here,' to which they always say something along the lines of, 'Oh, whose secretary/assistant are you?' I then tell them I'm a tenant, much to their apparent shock."
7."At a work event, after not having worked together for more than two years (and never for more than four months at a time), a guy who was two levels above me said, 'I can't believe we hired you.' When I asked why, he said, 'I'm surprised that you're surprised.'"
"He's a low level director at a trucking company now." —Anonymous, Washington, 31
8."While I was venting about how busy work had been for me, my 60-year-old colleague responded, 'Well, just remember that it's always worse for men since we have to deal with the pressure of being the breadwinners.'"
—Anonymous, Washington, 29
9."My boss has asked me, multiple times, in meetings with other people (typically other men) if I'm on my period. Another guy once told me, to my face, that no one will ever respect me because I'm a woman."
"Both men were in their 50s." —Anonymous, Colorado, 35
10."'You said I a lot.' I was talking about examples of my work. Because it was an interview."
—Anonymous, Washington, 31
11."A higher up told me that my boobs were the reason men got violent in bars — not alcohol but my boobs. This was after a bar fight had broken out, and a man spit at and raised his fist at me, the female bartender. This discussion happened while he was telling me that 'we' (the company) wouldn't be pressing charges."
12."I am the financial director of a software company. One time, a few males colleagues — who are great — and I had a meeting with a potential partner company. The owner of this company addressed all of his comments to my colleagues, even though we were discussing numbers and I was the one leading the conversation. At one point, he asked our marketing director a question and followed up by saying, 'Women just have no interest in finance, you know?' Well, meeting over. We're not doing business with him!"
—Anonymous, United Kingdom, 35
13."When I was 32, I found out that my husband and I were expecting. It was summertime. One day at work, I was wearing light, tan pants and a blouse. After coming back in from lunch on a hot day, I was fatigued and nauseous, so I stopped to use a water fountain that happened to be in front of my supervisor's desk. When I bent over to take a sip, a 45-year-old male coworker said out loud, for everyone within earshot to hear, 'Now I know what you must look like naked.' I felt humiliated and sick."
"I immediately went to the restroom where I vomited." —Anonymous, California, 63
14."My first professional job out of college was a store manager at Target. One day, an older white male, in at least his 60s, stopped me and told me how disgusted he was that one of my male team members did not assist one of my female team members in lifting a microwave (which weighed, at most, 30 pounds). I assured him that my female team member was able to do it on her own and knew she could ask for help if she needed it. Nevertheless, I said I'd check up on her. He then began yelling at me, lecturing me on how he couldn't believe that he was the only one standing up for women's rights and how he was defending women. He literally stopped all the other shoppers just to tell them how this Target did not support women. After, he asked me if there was a 'male manager' he could speak to, as 'females can't understand [him].' My blood was boiling."
"While I initially tried to explain to him how ironic his whole act was, I realized that there was no point. Instead, I told him that, as a female, I very much understood what he was trying to say and that he was more than welcome to shop at a different Target. Well, that shut him up, and he left.
I then checked up on my female team member, who didn't think twice about lifting that microwave. After, I went on with my day, questioning my career choice. While I understood that I was a young professional, I never questioned my leadership skills." —Anonymous, New Jersey, 27
15."I started a job in a factory as a blonde. Four months later, I decided to darken my hair. While I was walking down the aisle, a male supervisor, who was standing at the other end, loudly asked, 'Does the top match the bottom now, honey?'"
"I was 23, and he was 52. Keep in mind that I was working in a factory where sexual harassment was ignored, and we women just had to deal with it." —Anonymous, Ohio, 62
16."Mechanic here! 🙋🏻♀️ Do you want to know about the instructor who accused me of trying to sleep with my classmates, despite the fact that I make it a clear point to remain professional? The first boss I had who thought it would be in his best professional interest to strike up a conversation about my breasts? The customer who told me that I would never be of value to the industry because I wasn't capable of retaining information that wasn't meant for a 'woman's brain?' Or the job recruiter who creepily called me 'babe" every time we spoke?"
17."'Please have one of the guys check your calculations before starting any experiments, because women aren't good at math.' I tutored calculus all throughout college and actually loved math. To prove him wrong, I left the lab and got an MBA in finance."
—Anonymous, New York, 31
18."I was the only woman on a conference call, speaking with a room full of men who were meeting in person. I answered a question/statement from a man, correcting some things he had said. He responded by saying, 'She is schooling all of us, and she is a woman.' I was 40 at the time, and I froze. I finished the call professionally, waited a couple of weeks to collect my thoughts, and then addressed the issue with him directly. He apologized. I asked that he use it as a teachable moment and told him that if I ever heard anything like that again, I would file a complaint with HR. I also escalated the issue to my male boss, who then told me that I was probably just making more out of it than it was."
"Misogyny is alive and well." —Anonymous, Illinois, 44
19."When I was 25, I was on a factory tour with the 49-year-old CEO of a huge cosmetic manufacturer. Once I was alone, he took me into his office and said, 'Do you want to know my favorite place for women in this company? Under my desk,' while pointing to his desk."
"I left that day knowing I'd never do business with him or his company again." —Anonymous, California, 38
20."I asked a manager if I was doing the right things to get promoted, and he said, 'Well, sometimes you seem to lose confidence. I don't know if it's a cyclical thing or what.'"
"I was 30 then, and he was in his late 40s." —Anonymous, Alabama, 51
21."I was 27 and had been working as a junior project manager in the construction industry for a couple of years. This included working on governmental projects for a specific engineering client. At the end of one year, my boss and I were invited to that client's holiday party, and we both went. All of the male engineers assumed that I was my boss' date — despite him being 20 years older than me, despite several of them having previously met me face-to-face, and despite being in regular communication with them via phone and email. They all took one look at me and decided that I definitely couldn't be the person who'd been running their projects for months."
22."When I was 16, I was working at a taco restaurant, and the manager was in his 40s. In casual conversation, he said, 'If I have to be expected not to commit sexual harassment at work, then I need my mouth taped shut and my hands tied behind my back.' That made me realize the other creepy things he'd said to me — like, 'I bet you're a wild child,' or, while looking me up and down, 'She's about your size,' when talking about having sex with his girlfriend — were actually sexual harassment."
—Anonymous, California, 22
23."'We should stop hiring women, they only go and get pregnant.'"
"I was 28; he was 55." —Anonymous, United Kingdom, 35
24."One day, I was sitting next to a 50-year-old coworker in a hotel lobby. We were both replying to emails from the day, and he noticed how efficient my problem solving skills and response rates were compared to his. He then 'complimented' me by saying, 'Wow! You should be my secretary,' to which I replied, 'Or apply for your job.'"
—Anonymous, Arkansas 35
25."I was told that I am a great project manager not because of experience or a skill set but because 'all women are naturally just organized' and 'like to make little lists.'"
—Anonymous, Pennsylvania, 33
26."When I was 21, I worked as a beverage cart girl at my local golf course. From my very first day, I knew this singular 55-year-old man would be a problem. However, this particular story comes a few months later: It was the middle of July, insanely hot, and I was using anything I could to keep cool — cold, wet rags, ice packs, assorted fans, etc. One day, I drove up to a large group with a cooling rag around my neck and a hand-held fan to cool my face. This man stood there, gawking, and then asked, 'What's that you're holding there?' Before I could respond, he continued, 'It looks fancy, like one of those high-tech vibrators…Think you could show me how you use it?' After my initial shock wore off, I snapped back at him, telling him that it was a fan. He just laughed it off and told me in Spanish, 'Calm down, I'm only halfway kidding.' He didn't know that I know Spanish."
27."'You used to look so good. I remember when I thought, Wow, look at her. I always turned to look at you when you went by, even though I was happily married, but now you really have let yourself go.'"
"He was 55 then, and I was 33." —Anonymous, Maryland, 67
28."I used to work at a country club restaurant when I was 28. When I respectfully pointed out a mistake that my 42-year-old manager made, he called me into his office and told me that I was 'bossy' and 'aggressive.' He also said it was 'unprofessional' of me to 'criticize' him in front of the other staff."
—Anonymous, South Carolina, 29
29."My coworker visited the office with their newborn baby. My boss then told me that I looked far too comfortable with a baby and shouldn't get any ideas."
"I was 25, and he was at least 40." —Anonymous, United Kingdom, 33
30."I have a bachelors and masters degree, and I am a published scientist. I currently work as a chemist and development scientist within a lab setting. My manager spent a solid five minutes explaining to me how a Ziploc bag works."
—Anonymous, United Kingdom, 28
31."In college, I was desperate for a job. Growing up, as soon as I was allowed to work, I began waitressing, as my aunt ran a distinguished and renowned hotel. So, I walked to every restaurant in town, asking if they needed help. Luckily, I got a gig and started the next day. It was fast-paced, but I kept up as much as I could being new. The boss seemed happy to have me. Sometimes, we'd all go out drinking after work. After one hectic day — during which I'd done a great job, having gotten the hang of their unintuitive routines — we went out. I mentioned something that didn't go smoothly (as you'd expect on a busy day), and the boss put his arm around me, pulled me tight, and said, 'Well, it's no secret you're not a good waitress. Just lucky you're pretty!' I was stunned but smiled and nodded, feeling exactly how he wanted me to: Like I'd disappointed him and was a money pit but made up for it by being an attractive 19-year-old girl."
32."In college, I was hardworking, hungry, and eager. I had to be better than everyone else in the room as a music industry minor and videography major, which, at the time, were very male-dominated fields. I have many examples of inappropriate and nasty things done while I was a student and employee, but here's the worst: One semester, I sought out an internship. My professor got me an interview with the manager of a band that happened to be my favorite band of all time. However, he sternly warned me, 'Don't go sleeping around with the band! I'm not going out on a limb to get you this internship just so you can fuck all the band members and cause mayhem! I don't want to be responsible for another Yoko Ono!' Then, during introductions, he winked and told the manager, 'She's pretty, but she's smart, too! I already warned her about being a groupie and told her she isn't allowed to flirt with the boys!'"
"I had done nothing but exude professionalism and express excitement for the professional opportunity up to that point. I certainly hadn't said or done anything to suggest that was in it to 'fuck the band.' I was too stunned to say anything other than, 'Okay…?'
It was horrifying, embarrassing, and degrading, but I hadn't learned to find my voice and didn't know what I didn't have to take yet. The music industry ended up being a brutal industry to be in as a woman. I could be standing behind a mixing board in a venue with my hands on the knobs, and a band's tech would ask me where our sound guy was. During introductions with new bands or agents, I was almost always asked whose girlfriend I was (I couldn't possibly be in the room as a professional!).
I was also consistently told to not entice my male cohorts by being so sexy if I wanted to be respected and taken seriously — but also was told to be as sexy as possible for shows and events. Ultimately, I got the internship and established a lifelong relationship with everyone I worked with, and that manager went on to mentor me for years. Unfortunately, I don't see a whole lot of progress in the music industry, even today." —Anonymous, Virginia, 42