In two experiments we found that women exhibited worse psychological well-being in a context in which gender discrimination was pervasive compared to a context in which is was rare. In Study 1, women who read an essay suggesting that sexism is pervasive reported lower self-esteem than women who read an essay suggesting that sexism is rare. In Study 2, we examined the effects of the pervasiveness of sexism when women were making an attribution for a single negative outcome. Women who attributed a negative evaluation to pervasive sexism exhibited less positive self-esteem and affect compared to women who could attribute the negative evaluation to an isolated instance of discrimination or to a non-sexist, external cause. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.