What is a microaggression?

A microaggression is a statement or action, that shows subtle, intentional or unintentional discrimination, hostility or negative attitudes towards members of a marginalised group

Microaggressions occur on a regular basis; they are often subtle and unintentional, or even embedded within a seemingly positive comment.

The more regular they are, the more damaging they can be to an individual's well-being and feelings of inclusion, therefore it is vital that they are tackled within the profession. 

Here are examples of a few types of microaggressions that you may hear: 

  • Race/ethnicity: 'Where are you from, your English is great?', signalling that a person who is Black, Asian or minority ethnic isn’t British or isn’t from the UK.  

  • Gender: 'Women are too emotional' signalling that someone is being too emotional in a situation where a man would be seen as being more objective. 

  • Sexual orientation: 'That’s so gay', meaning something is bad or undesirable, and signalling that being gay is associated with negative and undesirable characteristics. 

  • Disability: 'You don’t look disabled', implying that someone with a disability must look or behave a certain way. 

Watch the animation above to learn more about the impact of microaggressions and then explore the other pages in our campaign hub.

How we developed the campaign

The CSP launched its equity, diversity and belonging strategy in October 2021. As a result, we have launched this campaign which aims to:  

  • reduce microaggressions faced by physiotherapy staff and students with marginalised protected characteristics in the workplace and on placement, in order to improve their working lives and physical/mental health  

  • increase awareness among physiotherapy managers and employers about the importance of creating a supportive and effective environment to report micro-aggressions  

  • empower physiotherapy to be an inclusive and welcoming profession that values diversity and difference  

  • enable members with different needs, identities, backgrounds and experiences to feel they belong. 

The campaign is based on insight gained from CSP members from marginalised groups who told us about the experiences they face in the workplace, or place of study.

We focused on microaggressions because these were the behaviours members told us they faced most often, with many describing it as a weekly occurrence.

But too often they felt unable to report the incident to a manager or course leader because of a lack of confidence that action would be taken.

That’s why the campaign places great emphasis on what managers should do to create an environment in which people feel they will be supported if they are the victim of a microaggression.

It’s why we also set out how colleagues can become allies and support members by calling out – or calling in - microaggressions when they witness them.

The campaign has been co-produced with members and designed to ensure that a key line in our new animation - ‘we all have a role to play’ - runs through everything we do.

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