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What is #Microfeminism?

More than 720,000 videos have used the hashtag over the last week, according to HR platform People Managing People

With over a billion views on TikTok, #Microfeminism shows that users share how they use acts of 'microfeminism' to empower people in the workplace.

Acts of microfeminism are small, such as changing the language used in emails or meetings at work, or calling out assumptions about women’s roles at work.

Katie Wood, a TikTok creator who works as an attorney, shared that she uses microfeminism to reverse assumptions about gendered roles at work. 

She said: “If somebody says I have to talk to the board, or I have to talk to the chairperson of the board, or I have to talk to the CEO or CFO, I will say ‘let me know what she says’. My default is ‘she’ or ‘her’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘him’, unless I know it’s a man.”

Wood added that, when giving feedback, she will affirm women before offering feedback, whereas with men she immediately prefaces her feedback with: “I want to add”. 

Read more: Time for action: breaking down barriers to gender equality in business

In another video, content creator Ella Lowgren explained that she calls out when men have taken credit for a female colleague’s ideas. 

She said: “When a man takes credit for a woman’s idea or woman’s work I will always call this out.”

Lowgren also noted that if colleagues in a meeting are on equal levels, she will ask a male member of the team to book the meeting room, “because women typically get asked to do it all the time and it’s just assumed so”.

The trend follows #WorkTok, which has gained attention over the last year for highlighting Gen Z’s approach to work.

Lizzy Barry, HR director at Iris Software Group, told HR magazine that this trend indicates the attitudes that Generation Z has towards inclusion at work.

She said: “On TikTok, some creators are sharing stories of microfeminism to shed light on unconscious, as well as conscious, biases they encounter in professional environments as women.

“For Gen Z, this is a way of challenging archaic attitudes and acting for inclusivity, equality and respect in the evolving workplace landscape.

“It's a call from Gen Z for mindfulness in our interactions, to help us better reflect on how our behaviours can be interpreted – and more importantly – improved, making Gen Z not just workers but changemakers in a more equitable corporate world.”

Read more: What is #WorkTok?

Chloe Combi, consultant and researcher on Gen Z, explained that the microfeminism trend could signal that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) isn’t working.

Combi, told HR magazine: “If these small wins or gains are seen as necessary in any office, I would have to question whether there was actually real gender equality from top to bottom.

“I suspect these wins are necessary in a number of companies and even industries, particularly for younger workers – especially female workers – to feel equal and represented, but it seems to be microfeminism just signals that DEI actually isn't working. 

“In truly equal companies, with powerful women top to bottom, microfeminism is probably less necessary.”

November's Fortune 500 Europe list showed that 7% of CEOs are women. And research we reported has shown that women’s career progression is stunted by a lack of health support and childcare, double standards or underestimating their own skills.

Barry suggested that those who adopt microfeminism should be careful not to discriminate against men when adopting this trend.

She commented: "Sometimes microfeminism can become a microaggression towards men, which creators need to be mindful of.

"Ultimately, the overarching goal is not to create more divisions between all genders but instead work toward balance. All genders should be actively trying to reduce bias (intentional or unintentional) in the workplace."

Nirit Peled-Muntz, chief people officer at HiBob, explained that HR should engage with the demand for better equality at work.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Microfeminism is a way employees can draw awareness to gender equality in the workplace.

"That’s why it’s important for HR leaders to pay attention to this trend and engage with it. My advice is to consistently collect feedback from your teams, ask specific questions around inclusion and act upon that feedback. Consider providing training, adopting new policies or coaching leaders.

"Creating a diverse workplace has a huge impact on the business success, microfeminism is one more trend that helps us keep the momentum and our commitment to creating a safe and inclusive workplace."