Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychology



First Reader/Committee Chair

Mark Agars


Subtle sexism is a pervasive problem for working women due to the normative, unequal and ambiguous treatment they experience. The ambiguous nature further exacerbates the experience because women are unsure where to place causal attribution and often times are left blaming themselves. Similarly, internalized sexism is rooted in the same limiting beliefs of traditional female stereotypes as subtle sexism. Both experiences and internalized sexism hinder working women’s cognitive internal attributions and their self-perceptions of value and competence. Subtle sexism and internalized sexism can be particularly damaging because they are hard to recognize as negative and thus, when never remedied, can be cumulative in nature. Resulting in small but frequent interactions that consistently hinder women’s professional and personal success. This may be due to the additional cognitive effort women expend to cope as subtle sexism is rooted in benevolent stereotypes which are not innately negative but belittle women’s value. These stereotypes are sexist and embedded in traditional gender roles, often internalized from young ages, making experienced and internalized sexism a complex but imperative factor to address for working women. In the present study we examine the relationships between working women’s’ experienced subtle sexism as well as their internalized sexism on self-perceptions of self-liking and self-competence and the impact both have on causal attributions of blame. Our results shed light on the negative impact of these phenomena and add to the limited research on working women’s experiences of subtle sexism and their internalized sexism. The present study suggests that women’s cognitive processing of attributions is essential to how women interpret and are impacted by subtle sexism. This study signifies the importance and responsibility of the workplace and its leaders to address the unseen discrimination and provides implications for the workplace with emphasis on unveiling the normative and benevolent stereotypes both experienced and internalized sexism operate through.