Why Are Some Organizations More Prone to Sexual Harassment Than Others?

Despite an increased awareness of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace with campaigns such as the #MeToo Movement, this is still a prevalent problem in many work environments in California and throughout the country. Sexual harassment is more likely to occur at organizations with issues that are inherent to their workplace cultures, as well as management that does not know how to properly prevent sexual harassment behaviors.

How Social Statuses and Gender Normals Affect Sexual Harassment

According to organizational researchers, sexual harassment continues to persist in many organizations due to an overarching structure that creates and regulates social statuses and gender norms. While many people believe that sexual harassment is a product of sexual desire, psychologists and scholars have found in data studies that sexual harassment is more often a tool for creating and maintaining social statuses between the sexes. In other words, males in the workforce sexualize females to keep them “in their place.”

 Part of the problem is a common workplace culture – especially in male-dominated industries – that promotes a mentality where power, control and intimidation are necessary to have supervisory positions. Researchers have deemed these sets of norms “masculinity contests” – where an organization encourages harassing behaviors as an acceptable method to dominate other workers. In this type of work environment, sexual harassment may be viewed as a way to maintain one’s authority or even get promoted.

Deviations From Gender Norms Increase the Odds of Sexual Harassment

Further supporting the idea that sexual harassment is an instrument used to maintain a certain hierarchy between the genders in the workplace is the fact that the odds of sexual harassment increase among workers who deviate from gender norms. Women who wear business suits instead of skirts in the office, for example, or women who work in male-dominated industries such as information technology, report higher rates of sexual harassment than women who comply with typical gender norms at their jobs.

The same is true of men in the workplace. Males who work in female-dominated careers, such as nursing or daycare, experience sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying more than men in other industries. However, statistically, women are the primary targets of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Studies show that 81 percent of women will experience sexual harassment in their lifetime, compared to 43 percent of men.

Do Employers Take Sexual Harassment Seriously?

Preventing, detecting and stopping sexual harassment in the workplace is the responsibility of those who are in positions to change things on an institutional level within the company, such as owners, presidents and managers. One of the main issues among organizations where sexual harassment remains a problem is a lack of corrective action by higher-ups.

For example, many managers are guilty of punishing alleged harassers based on their positions within the company rather than the nature of the crimes. This sends the message that sexual harassment will be tolerated if the person doing the harassing enjoys a high status at the company. Rather than a company’s response to sexual harassment fitting the status of the abuser, it should fit the crime. All senior-level staff at an organization should take sexual harassment and bullying seriously, regardless of the position of the abuser.

How To Prevent Sexual Harassment at Your Organization?

As a business owner, manager or even a regular employee in California, you may have the power to prevent workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Use these tips to reduce the risk of creating or contributing to a workplace culture that is conducive to sexual harassment:

  • Invest in sensitivity training for your staff.
  • Constantly review and update your sexual harassment policies.
  • Analyze your company culture. Does it prevent or enable harassers?
  • Implement clear and transparent harassment reporting structures.
  • Do not reward displays of stereotypical masculinity or masculinity contests.
  • Set an example for how people should act and respond to harassment in the workplace.
  • Speak out if you see someone mistreating another worker.

If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment in Los Angeles, contact a sexual harassment attorney at Mathew & George today for legal assistance. We offer free workplace sexual harassment and discrimination case consultations.