Are Female Supervisors More Susceptible to Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment means to make unwelcome remarks, jokes, requests or advances of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can impact a worker at any level of an organization, from a contractor or employee all the way up to a supervisor or manager. Studies suggest that sexual harassment is less about expressing sexual desires and more about maintaining the status quo in an office. This is emphasized by the fact that as female workers move up in the ranks at work, they are statistically more susceptible to sexual harassment.

Females in Supervisory Positions Break the Status Quo

In 2009, the first large-scale study to examine the dynamics of power and gender through a sexual harassment lens concluded that almost half of female supervisors experienced sexual harassment, compared to one-third of women who were not in supervisory positions. Female supervisors were 137 percent more likely to face sexual harassment than their nonsupervisory counterparts. Over a decade later, this statistic still holds true.

Women in supervisory and management positions are more likely to experience sexual harassment at work due to one main fact: male-dominated companies and industries tend to equate positions of power with masculinity. Traditionally, only men held roles such as Supervisor, Manager and CEO. When women break the gender norm by becoming female supervisors, they disrupt the conventional status quo and face an increased risk of sexual harassment and discrimination by their coworkers.

By holding a position of power over other workers, a female supervisor is challenging the old-fashioned gender norms and workplace status quos between the sexes. In this scenario, males who feel threatened by the idea of a woman in charge may use sexual harassment as an equalizer against the female supervisor. Unfortunately, many organizations encourage these behaviors, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Female vs. Male Supervisors and Sexual Harassment

When it comes to comparing female and male supervisors, it is no surprise that the former is more susceptible to sexual harassment. Historically, women have always been more at risk of sexual harassment in the workplace than their male counterparts. Statistics show that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men report experiencing sexual harassment – including verbal, physical and visual sexual harassment – at work.

Being promoted to a supervisor position increases the risk of sexual harassment for a female worker but does not do so for a male worker. A female supervisor is more susceptible to sexual harassment than a male supervisor for the reasons mentioned above – she is acting outside of the gender norm, while he is acting in accordance with it. Other men in positions of power in the office may also turn a blind eye or even encourage sexual harassment behaviors at higher levels, making it more likely for a female supervisor to suffer sexual harassment.

Other Examples of Breaking the Status Quo

Women in supervisory positions are not the only victims of sexual harassment. Sociologists have also found that gender expression is a strong factor in predicting workplace harassment. For example, men who have lower levels of masculinity, non-heterosexual men and transgender men in supervisor positions are also at a greater risk of sexual harassment. In fact, their risk level is nearly twice as much as men who reported average levels of masculinity, heterosexual men and cis men.

What to Do About Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace 

If you are a female in a supervisor position at an organization in California, there are state and federal laws that protect you from sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination. If you believe that your boss, a coworker or someone else in your workplace is violating your legal rights, contact Mathew & George to request a free consultation. 

Our attorneys will carefully investigate your situation, search for evidence of sexual harassment and go up against an organization on your behalf. Our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers can help you hold one or more parties accountable, recover the financial compensation that you deserve, and push for greater protections against sexual harassment for female supervisors in the future. Call (310) 478-4349 today.