Women Are Sharing The Times Their Male Boss Or Colleague Said Something Truly Inappropriate To Them

Being a woman in the workplace means, more than likely, you’ve experienced harassment or gender discrimination at work.

Employee addressing sexism in the workplace to a male colleague
NBC / Via giphy.com

So we asked the women of the BuzzFeed Community to share the time their male boss or colleague said something unbelievably inappropriate or sexist to them. Here's what they had to say:

1."When working as a member of a med flight crew, you learn to develop a thick skin. While working with my male boss one day, we found ourselves in the middle of an open field while doing a PR event for emergency dispatchers. Unfortunately for me, I had to pee and there were no bathrooms anywhere. I voiced my displeasure at my predicament, and my boss said I could go in the field and then asked if he could watch. I never reported him because I was too afraid of retaliation. This was over 5 years ago and I still regret keeping quiet."

—45, United States

2."I work in a very male-dominated environment. My colleague, who I generally get on with, occasionally makes jokes at my expense to curry favor with other men. Most of them are pretty harmless and I laugh them off. But one time he explained to two strangers that the reason a leader of our organization had not shown an interest in our branch was that my 'tits aren’t big enough.' I was stunned but the ensuing silence was so uncomfortable I once again felt obliged to make light of it. I also felt unable to report it in case it jeopardized his role or made things weird in the future."


A woman in a professional burgundy dress gestures while speaking
TLC / Via giphy.com

3."As a grad student in a science discipline, my thesis advisor started calling me 'plum tree' when I became engaged to my husband. He thought the name was hilarious since now I was going to go off and bear fruit. Clearly, I missed the joke."

—57, Canada

4."My male colleagues would repeatedly ask me if I was sick or tired if I hadn't worn makeup to work that day. The women never asked this."

—27, United Kingdom

5."Regarding a software solution we use, a male counterpart said, 'How do you know it does that? It does not do that.' I responded yes, it does. I worked there, and what do I know? I only hold the patent for that, but sure, tell me what it can or cannot do because you do not understand the software. He still tried to mansplain that it was impossible even after I showed him how. Being a woman in tech is a lot of this and people saying no to your idea only to present it as theirs weeks or months later."

—40, Atlanta

Amy Phoeler with a text caption on screen expressing a humorous quip about mansplaining
Golden Globes / Via giphy.com

6."A new boss (male) was toxic and I was killing myself working what felt like 24 hours a day, taking his calls and answering emails well into the night. My husband finally said I needed to stop as my whole world became my job. I lasted about a year, but when I found a different opportunity in the company, I took it. When I told my boss, he told all his executives that I was an emotional woman who couldn’t take feedback and I passed up a major opportunity to work on his team because I didn’t want the accountability."


7."I’m a 32-year-old attorney, working at an Am Law 200 firm (i.e., one of the top 200 largest firms in the US). In our annual evaluations with our office’s managing partner two weeks ago, my colleague, in her late 20s, was directly told by our CFO that he doesn’t believe women can be law firm partners, because of parenting/family needs. I was fuming on behalf of all the women in my firm busting our asses for apparently no shot of upward mobility. It’s 2024. We’re working in a highly competitive and demanding profession. Those dated, sexist stereotypes have no place in the office — let alone in positions of leadership."

"I stopped meeting my required 165 billable hours per month and sent out job applications the next week. Three interviews are set for next week at more prestigious firms — all of which have female managing partners in the local offices. I'm hoping to land somewhere that empowers women, not dismisses them because of misogyny!"

—32, anonymous

Character Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation looks displeased while holding a document

8."I worked for a drugstore in the makeup department in my early 20s. Those of us who worked in that department were supposed to only work in that department, not the rest of the store. One night, I got a call to meet the (male) supervisors in one of the aisles. Upon arriving, they told me that the shelves with t-shirts were messed up and unacceptable and that I needed to fold them all to make them look nice. Confused, I said that I was scheduled in the makeup department, not the store, and that would put my closing tasks way behind. They looked at each other, and then one said, 'Well folding clothes is women’s work, so you need to make time.' They could tell I was livid, so they spent the rest of the night cracking sexist jokes and calling me from the manager’s office to tell me that I needed to make them a sandwich. Of course, when I was clocking out and leaving, one of them stopped me at the door to ask why I was so mad and why I couldn’t take a joke."

—34, California

9."I was working at Mcdonald's when I was 18 and had a coworker who was about 10 years or so older than me. We were eating lunch together one day (against my wishes) and I accidentally dropped a little dipping sauce on my shirt right above my breast. He said, “Is it weird I find that kind of hot?” It made me so uncomfortable, not only because I was basically a child at the time but because it was also completely inappropriate. He made me uncomfortable many times, but that was the last straw. I told my manager afterward, who ended up having a 'talk' with him. Nothing came of it."


10."The most audacious in a LONG list was when we were sitting in a duty van waiting for other personnel to arrive and he looked at me, then the back of the van, then back at me and wiggled his eyebrows and said, 'You wanna eh, eh?'"


Woman with dark hair sitting, appears surprised or exasperated, possibly during a meeting
ABC / Via giphy.com

11."When I announced my pregnancy at work, my boss asked why I couldn’t keep my legs together. This man is a father of six."


12."I used to work on the marketing side for a bar right out of college. My sole male colleague would harp constantly that 'women don't know how to market a bar, since it's not a place for them.' This man had been sober for 10 years. What makes YOU qualified to promote a bar when you don't even drink? All of my ideas were trashed because I was younger and a woman in favor of his old, outdated ways."


13."I worked at a well-known chain breakfast restaurant as a server. At the time, I was probably 19. My manager and I were having a conversation about how much I made in tips that day. I didn't make as much as I normally did, so I was slightly irritated, but not complaining. He said, 'Well, if you unbuttoned your shirt one more button you'd probably get more.'"


Alison Brie with a surprised expression

14."He 'joked' about showing him my bikini pics when I returned from a Cancun trip."


15."So I'm a female resident (doctor still in training) and my male attending (boss doc out of training) and I were checking up on our patients and he was saying how grossed out he was by our patient who had an STI and a history of STIs. I immediately called out his sexism and just general lack of empathy, saying, 'It's just an infectious disease like getting pink eye or strep throat it is not gross or shameful' and he turned to me and said 'Oh so you must have had one then, huh?' Not only is this incredibly unprofessional, demeaning, and sexist, but uh YEAH I did have an STI in college, and at the time I had immense shame from it brought on by my (male) partner and (male) ex-boyfriend at the time. I felt incredibly alone. A decade later this mofo is still perpetuating that shame onto other people. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck that."

—JG, Florida

16."Seven years ago (at a job I had been at for six years), I asked for a raise to $17 an hour. My male boss stared at me and said, 'You think you're worth $17 an hour?' I replied, 'Yes, of course I do.' To which he responded, 'Well, I don't.'"

"I stayed there for another year because I genuinely enjoyed the job. Fast forward, I found my big girl job and resigned from that job. When I worked my final two weeks, my boss avoided me the entire time. His wife made a point of telling me that he was 'hurt that I quit.'"


Woman looking surprised on a baking competition show, wearing earrings and a green patterned top
Netflix / Via giphy.com

17."In the '90s, I walked into the staff room to have lunch when a colleague told everyone to get out because he was going to 'fuck' me on the lunch table. Everyone laughed. I was 18 and he was a middle-aged man. No one stood up for me."

—47, London

18."I have so many as a chaplain, but these two are tied for me: The new intern who told me that I should change my last name to match my husband’s to honor him, and the colleague who asked me who I was wearing heels for that day since 'women never wear heels for themselves.' Yuck. They were for me — and my mom — who bought me new shoes for work."

—38, USA

19."I was 24 years old and had landed my first gig working on a major movie set some years ago. (I won’t specifically name the title of the movie to protect myself and those involved, but the theme of the film centered around race). One night, we were shooting a scene that involved a riot, so the energy on set was a bit intense. I am a fair-skinned black woman and I remember walking to set with another colleague of mine who also happened to be a fair-skinned black woman. As we were walking, one of the producers began to just talk out the side of his neck without thinking. He randomly decided to say that we as light-skinned black women weren’t really black and as far as he was concerned we were white. I was speechless. My coworker was too. We had no idea what would make him (a white man) say something so foul and ignorant. The fact that he felt it was okay to say that, and that he as a producer could get away with it angered me."

—31, Georgia

A woman in business attire sits at an office desk, engaged in a serious conversation with a partial view of a man
Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

20."I did a sports medicine internship when I was 19. One of our tasks was showing athletes how to properly perform stretches and different exercises. After demonstrating one of the moves, it was mentioned that I was pretty flexible (at the time I was still a dancer). One of the male interns commented to me that I 'better remain flexible so I could get a good husband and keep him happy.' That comment, along with the strong boys club vibe of sports medicine, is the biggest reason I decided that was not the career for me even though I enjoyed the work."

—26, USA

21."My male boss was on a call and referred to someone as a bitch. I left the room in disgust and when I returned he asked why it had bothered me. I calmly explained the reasons why this isn’t a suitable word to use and its impact. He doubled down with an explanation that men say it to each other and in rap songs so it wasn’t a negative word about women. I explained again why it was so he said 'We’ll have to agree to disagree.'"

—48, UK

22.And finally, "'Look, you’re a mom, and as a mom, your first priority is to take care of your children. And if you’re doing that job correctly (being a mom) you can’t do this job correctly (being an engineer).' That was said to me by the president of an engineering firm in 2015. I left his company and went on to have a very successful engineering career and raise two wonderful children."

—44, Texas

Woman in blue scrubs speaking, representing a skincare brand on a TV network
TLC / Via giphy.com

If you have your own story you'd like to add, please share it in the comments, or you can send it anonymously via this form.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.