This publication list includes many accounts of apparently tiny events that can have a major impact for harm—or for good. Several articles describe the minutiae of discrimination, micro-inequities that are part of—and maintain—structural sexism and racism and other forms of discrimination. Subtle discrimination is part of the scaffolding of persistent inequality. (At first, micro-inequities were nicknamed “Saturn’s Rings phenomena,” because the planet Saturn is obscured by rings—although if you were in a ring, you might only feel pings from bits of sand and ice.)
The reverse is also true: Micro-affirmations form part of the scaffolding that supports people to thrive. The power of micro-affirmations is only beginning to be studied and understood. The articles on this page offer an account of where these two terms came from, and include:
» An extension of Professor Chester Pierce’s original work on racist micro-aggressions, to add in a wider set of all micro-behaviors whose effects are perceived as unfair whether or not “aggressive.” This wider of set of micro-behaviors includes events resulting from unconscious bias, negligence, thoughtlessness, lack of skills or knowledge, and accidents, as well as those that are hostile or aggressive. This wider set, including micro-aggressions, was named micro-inequities.
» Discussion of the fact that while micro-messages affect everyone, they may have disparate impact on people who are perceived as non-traditional or less powerful in a specific environment. The original definition of micro-inequities was: “apparently small events which are often ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are covert, often unintentional, frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator, which occur wherever people are perceived to be ‘different.’” The discussions were later expanded to include a yet-wider set of micro-events whose effects are perceived to be unfair.
» The ways that micro-affirmations may help to block unconscious bias, and in many ways address the structural nature of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and unfairness. The original definition of micro-affirmations was “apparently small acts, which are often ephemeral and hard-to-see, events that are public and private, often unconscious but very effective, which occur wherever people wish to help others to succeed.” Affirmations may be fundamental to our experience of “belonging.” Micro-affirmations also need a research agenda.
- "BELONGING—The Feeling That We ‘Belong’ May Depend in Part on ‘Affirmations.’” Rowe, Mary. MIT Sloan Working Paper 6452-21. Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan School of Management, December 2022.
- “'Drafting a Letter' for People Dealing with Harassment or Bullying How Did this Option Evolve? How May it Help?" Rowe, Mary. Submitted to JIOA for publication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan School of Management, February 2023.
- "Micro-inequities in Medicine." Silver, Julie K., Mary Rowe, Michael S. Sinha, Diana M. Molinares, Nancy D. Spector, and Debjani Mukherjee. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 10, No. 10 (October 2018): 1106-1114. Download paper.
- "Micro-affirmations Need a Research Agenda." Rowe, Mary. Working paper, 2017.
- "Gender Microinequities." Rowe, Mary P., and Anna Giraldo-Kerr. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender, edited by Kevin L. Nadal, 679-682. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, July 2017.
- "Unconscious Bias: May Micro-Affirmations Provide One Answer?" Rowe, Mary. MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research commentary, February 2015.
- “Micro-affirmations & Micro-inequities” (PDF). Rowe, Mary. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association 1, No. 1 (March 2008).
- "Requests for Personal Work May Pose a Conflict of Interest” (PDF). Rowe, Mary. MIT Faculty Newsletter, February/March 2003.
- "Cumulative Effects of Apparently Small Events” (PDF). Rowe, Mary. MIT Faculty Newsletter, April/May 2002.
- “Comment” in “What Should Jane Do About Her Top Performer’s Mean Streak?,” part of “What a Star—What a Jerk.” Cliffe, Sarah. Harvard Business Review 79, No. 8 (September 2001): 42.
- “Fostering Diversity: Some Major Hurdles Remain." Rowe, Mary P. Change 25, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 1993): 35-39. Revised and republished as “Fostering Diversity: Some Major Hurdles Remain When the Playing Field is Tilted” (PDF). Program Manager, March-April 1995: 14-19.
- “The Case of the Hidden Harassment.” Niven, Daniel, Cheryl Wang, Mary P. Rowe, Mikiko Taga, Judith P. Vladeck, and Lee C. Garron. Harvard Business Review 70, No. 2 (March-April 1992): 12-14.
- “Barriers to Equality: The Power of Subtle Discrimination to Maintain Unequal Opportunity” (PDF). Rowe, Mary P. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 3, No. 2 (June 1990): 153-163. Also reprinted in Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy, 4th ed., edited by Thomas A. Mappes and Jane S. Zambaty. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.
- "Harassment at MIT: Think Prevention” (PDF). Rowe, Mary. MIT Faculty Newsletter, October 1989.
- Rowe, Mary P. Review of The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment on Campus, by Billie Wright Dziech and Linda Weiner. Journal of Higher Education 56, No. 4 (1985): 482-483.
- Rowe, Mary P. Review of Sexual and Gender Harassment in the Academy: A Guide for Faculty, Students, and Administrators, by Phyllis Franklin, Helene Moglen, Phyllis Zatlin-Boring, and Ruth Angress. Journal of Higher Education 54, No. 3 (May/June 1983): 337-339.
- “The Case of the Valuable Vendors." Rowe, Mary P. Harvard Business Review 56, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1978): 42-60. Also reprinted in Dealing with Conflict, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School, 1983, 167-173.
- “Dealing With Sexual Harassment.” Rowe, Mary P. Harvard Business Review 59, No. 3 (May-June 1981): 42-46.
- “The Minutiae of Discrimination: The Need for Support” (PDF). Rowe, Mary. Chapter 11 in Outsiders on the Inside: Women in Organizations, edited by Barbara L. Forisha and Barbara Goldman, 155-171. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981. (Note: This chapter is a revised version of the “Saturn’s Rings” papers.)
- “A Handy, Dandy, Quick and Practical Checklist for Women Trustees.” Rowe, Mary. In Gateways and Barriers for Women in the University Community, edited by Kathryn Moore, 48-53. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.
- “The Saturn’s Rings Phenomenon: Micro-inequities and Unequal Opportunity in the American Economy.” Rowe, Mary P. In Proceedings of the NSF Conference on Women's Leadership and Authority, edited by Patricia Bourne and Velma Parness, 55-71. University of California, Santa Cruz, California, 1977. Also reprinted in Comment 10, No. 3 (March 1978): 3.
- “Saturn's Rings II” is a 1975 updating of the original 1973 version, with some racist and sexist incidents reported from 1974 and 1975. An excerpt appears as "The Saturn's Rings Phenomenon." Rowe, Mary P. Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin 50, No.1 (Sept./Oct. 1975): 14-18.
- “The Progress of Women in Educational Institutions: The Saturn's Rings Phenomenon.” Rowe, Mary P. In Graduate and Professional Education of Women: Proceedings of American Association of University Women Conference, 1974, pp. 1-9.
- "The Progress of Women in Educational Institutions: The Saturn’s Rings Phenomenon, with an imaginary case study." Rowe, Mary P. An unpublished report to the MIT Academic Council, December, 1973. (Note: This first-year report contributed to the discussion resulting in MIT’s first harassment policy. The article describes various aspects of structural sexism: illegal behavior toward women; unconscious slights; conscious sexism, including harassment, exploitation and poor service; and psychiatric problems manifested in sexist behavior. The metaphor of Saturn’s Rings is used to illuminate a constant experience of disconcerting and painful events that cloud the work experience of many women, just as the planet Saturn is clouded by bits of rock, sand and ice. Despite the similar title on this website, this report overlaps only partially with a published article with the same title.)