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For women, more authority = more harassment | Hunter of Justice

For women, more authority = more harassment

by on August 26, 2009  •  In Social science

Data presented at this year's meeting of the American Sociological Association demonstrate that women in management positions are significantly more likely to be harassed than women who do not supervise others. The study also found that effeminate men were susceptible to harassment, an observation borne out by the large number of same-sex harassment cases, almost all filed by male employees who are perceived for a variety of reasons to be weak.

Women who hold supervisory positions are more likely to be sexually harassed at work, according to the first-ever, large-scale longitudinal study to examine workplace power, gender and sexual harassment.

The study, "A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Power and Sexual Harassment in Young Adulthood," reveals that nearly fifty percent of women supervisors, but only one-third of women who do not supervise others, reported sexual harassment in the workplace. In more conservative models with stringent statistical controls, women supervisors were 137 percent more likely to be sexually harassed than women who did not hold managerial roles.

While supervisory status increased the likelihood of harassment among women, it did not significantly impact the likelihood for men.

"This study provides the strongest evidence to date supporting the theory that sexual harassment is less about sexual desire than about control and domination,"said Heather McLaughlin, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota and the study's primary investigator. "Male co-workers, clients and supervisors seem to be using harassment as an equalizer against women in power."

McLaughlin and her co-authors examined data from the 2003 and 2004 waves of the Youth Development Study (YDS), a prospective study of adolescents that began in 1988 with a sample of 1,010 ninth graders in the St. Paul, Minnesota, public school district and has continued near annually since. Respondents were approximately 29 and 30 years old during the 2003 and 2004 waves. The analysis was supplemented with in-depth interviews with a subset of the YDS survey respondents.

The sociologists found that, in addition to workplace power, gender expression was a strong predictor of workplace harassment. Men who reported higher levels of femininity were more likely to have experienced harassment than less feminine men. More feminine men were at a greater risk of experiencing more severe or multiple forms of sexual harassment (as were female supervisors).

In a separate analysis examining perceived and self-reported sexual orientation, study respondents who reported being labeled as non-heterosexual by others or who self-identified as non-heterosexual (gay, lesbian, bisexual, unsure, other) were nearly twice as likely to experience harassment.

Researchers also found that those who reported harassment in the first year (2003) were 6.5 times more likely to experience harassment in the following year. The most common scenario reported by survey respondents involved male harassers and female targets, while males harassing other males was the second most frequent situation.

McLaughlin co-authored the study with sociologists Christopher Uggen, chair of the University of Minnesota's sociology department and a distinguished McKnight professor of sociology, and Amy Blackstone, associate professor of sociology at the University of Maine. The multi-method research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

From Signs of the Times.

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One Response to For women, more authority = more harassment

  1. Sital341 March 3, 2010 at 2:21 AM

    Sexual harassment at work place is unlawful & punishable offence. As we known women can do anything as men can but still women are back in men dominated world. We have to make some rules and reservation for empowering women. I found the site http://naukriforwomen.com which seems very useful to the women world. This is a good initiative to reduce the disparity between the sexes in work environments.

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