Soft-misogyny and its Impact on the Workplace

Tosca Killoran (EdD)
11 min readJun 11, 2021


Early on in my career I sat in a school meeting. Midway through the meeting the Head of School called a short five minute break. Everyone but myself, the Head of School, and another male colleague remained at the table. The Head turned, looked at my colleague and commented, “Well I guess it’s just you and me then Bob.”

In an instant the magic wand of soft-misogyny had been waved over my physical presence and I became invisible. I was annoyed and ruminated on the event as a modern allegory for the ways in which women are made invisible, through lack of upward mobility, through lack of equitable pay, through lack of opportunity. But the Head was a ‘good guy’: a person I respected, even admired. It was then I realized that qualified women are often unintentionally erased by men who think that they are champions of women.

Here, in order to make the invisible visible, I work to provide insight into the ways in which people engage in what I call soft-misogyny or misogyny without cognition — and the ways in which that impacts the female experience. Women are not simply denied top leadership opportunities at the culmination of a long career, but rather such opportunities seem to disappear at various points along their trajectories. When women do elevate to leadership they face challenges embedded within institutional structures and cultural norms and perhaps most difficult human mind-sets, and all require transformative change.

“Look, you just need to fight your own battles.”

As a Principal, I have listened to female teachers share that when they express their frustrations over workplace sexism, they are often met with calculated apathy from their male colleagues. A shrug of the shoulders and a quick comment, “Look, you just need to fight your own battles” is an example of soft-misogyny that requires some examination.

The proverbial ‘hiding one’s head in the sand’ is a particularly insidious type of marginalization and bias. It is not overt, or expressly intentional but it is just as harmful. Remarks such as…

Tosca Killoran (EdD)

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