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Workplace Sexual Harassment - An Overview

Nov 19,2022

In the persisting gender gaps of our society, workplace sexual harassment creates several psychological, physical, and economic effects on the lives of those who experience it. The prevailing unequal treatment of individuals at work is the root cause that gives rise to sexual harassment in the work environment. Although all people can experience sexual harassment in the workplace, females are at a bigger risk of experiencing it. As per a study conducted, African-American females face a higher risk of sexual harassment at work.

Sexual harassment at work is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical forms of sexual harassment. Sexual violence at the workplace, apart from impacting the victims psychologically and physically, also affects their careers leading many to leave their jobs despite the forthcoming economic disadvantages. It also creates a disparity and widens the gender that already prevails in our society. It discourages females to enter careers where sexual harassment takes place and pushes them out after being a victim of workplace sexual harassment, which creates occupational segregation and also leads to creating a gender wage gap.

Despite the prevalence of the crime and its detrimental impacts, sexual harassment at the workplace is a highly underreported crime. 99.8% of women who experience the crime do not file a complaint against the same. The reasons for the underreporting are multifarious. It can be because of the fear of retaliation from the employers or the economic dependence over them. Furthermore, it can be because of the lacking knowledge about sexual harassment taking place in the workplace. For example, disparaging comments, groping, catcalling, etc. are often trivialized. However, such actions also constitute sexual harassment. Without comprehensive knowledge about the same, it can become difficult for people to recognize the sign of sexual misconduct at work, which might be the reason why it often gets ignored and underreported.

Is workplace sexual harassment all about power?

Various studies demonstrate that workplace sexual harassment is also a demonstration of power on the part of the person in the position. Due to the preconceived notions of a male being a stronger and superior counterpart, in most organizations, the higher-ranking position has more males in power. Consequently, putting the females and all those less powerful people at risk. Furthermore, it is also seen that females who threaten male dominance in the organization are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment. For example, female superiors who are in power directly target the patriarchal superiority of males. In contrast to males, they might as well be less appreciated for their jobs and receive a lower wage than the males in the same position.

The differences among the workers also play a pivotal role in sexual harassment in the workplace. The race and the gender of the colored females are intertwined together to put them at a higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to that, single women have a higher level of threat of workplace sexual harassment than highly educated females or females in power.

Why do males commit sexual harassment in the workplace?

Living in a patriarchal society, workplace sexual harassment stems from the acts challenging or threatening male superiority. For example, males with a higher-earning spouse tend to develop conservative views toward political and social issues like abortions. They also develop views that question the masculinity of homosexual men, thus putting them at the threat of harassment as well. These actions arising from a threatened male superiority are often linked to sexually harassing behavior and are not merely the conservative views they share in society.

Furthermore, unemployment among males can also lead to sexually harassing behavior. The prevailing belief that puts males as 'bread earners' of the family questions their reputation in society if they are unemployed. Males are often fed to be the superiors, which makes it even more difficult for them to accept their economic conditions. There is always a threat of what society might think when a male is unemployed. Even though society does not have the same impressions of males, the years-long superiority of the males puts the status of the gender at risk.

How to prevent Sexual Harassment at Work?

No form of sexual harassment can be ignored. The crime causes deleterious impacts on the physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being of an individual. To prevent workplace sexual harassment, it is primordial that both employers and employees have a comprehensive understanding of sexual harassment and its adverse effects. Furthermore, the administration should adopt strategies and company policies that help prevent sexual harassment at work. The companies should also adopt sexual harassment prevention training for their employees to teach them what not to do. Most often, mere punishments do not impact perpetrators much. To avoid workplace harassment, companies should focus on laws and regulations to take legal actions against such employees. After all, sexual harassment is not acceptable, and no circumstances can explain the heinous acts of sexual crime and discrimination.

Workplace sexual harassment can have debilitating impacts on the victims, and it must be prevented. If you or anyone else you know has experienced sexual harassment, it is time you find professional help. Suffering in silence is never an option.