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ImageA new study has revealed that women who publicly confront instances of sexism in the workplace tend to feel more capable and competent in their jobs and about themselves in general.

The research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined how both men and women perceive, react to and relate to everyday episodes of workplace prejudice, and found that women who challenge sexist behavior experience psychological benefits such as self-esteem, empowerment and competence.

"Most everyday instances of prejudice are somewhat subtle, but things like sexist jokes can undermine workplace performance and perceptions of competence and control for women," said Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of psychology at UNL and the study's lead author.

"Importantly, directly challenging such instances of sexism can serve as an antidote for negative psychological effects -- turning a negative event into an instance that makes women feel better about themselves and their work, and even to feel empowered," she added.

For the study, researchers set up a simulated online interaction. After participants were presented with a sexist comment that was openly directed at a woman in the group, they were given the chance to respond publicly to the statement and discuss its appropriateness.

Unlike women who confronted the sexist remark, calling out the employee's sexist behavior had little relationship to men's general feelings of competence, self-esteem or empowerment at work.

That suggests that confronting workplace prejudice may be particularly important for those who are the traditional victims of the behavior -- in this case, women, said Gervais.

The author further stated the study's findings also could help employers look at confrontation of workplace prejudice in a different light, promoting a work culture that would foster greater understanding between employees.

"Challenging prejudice can be good for the workplace and can help overcome some of the negative effects victims of prejudice might experience," she noted.

The study was published in the journal Sex Roles.

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