Study Finds Sexual Harassment Increases as Women Move Up the Corporate Ladder

A study published in the Winter 2020 issue of the journal Daedalus finds that as women move higher up in an organization they become more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment. The study examined women in Sweden, Japan, and the United States.

The authors found that women supervisors are between 30 to 100 percent more likely to have been sexually harassed in the last 12 months than women workers generally. Among supervisors, the risk is larger in lower- and mid-level positions of leadership and when subordinates are mostly male. They also note that harassment of women supervisors happens despite their greater likelihood of taking action against the abuser, and that supervisors face more professional and social retaliation after their harassment experience. The greater exposure to sexual harassment at work is extremely important because studies have shown that that sexual harassment damages, among other things, the victim’s psychological well-being, productivity at work, and sense of belongingness in the workplace.

Why do women supervisors experience more sexual harassment? The authors state that “sexual harassment is sometimes about sexual desire, but other times may be about status equalization. Consciously or subconsciously, the harasser may want to ‘put women in their place.’”

The authors conclude that “sexual harassment disincentivizes women to take leadership positions in the workplace. It is vital that we grasp the extent to which sexual harassment deters women from seeking leadership roles. Women’s continued advancement to leadership roles in the labor market is a necessary pathway to economic equality between men and women.”


Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment

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