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Of Sexual Harassment and Gender Equality, Literature Review Example

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Literature Review

History has shown a many great problems that have existed within the workplace for issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.  While it is important to examine both the instances of sexual harassment and gender factors within the workplace, very little information has been published that shows a direct correlation between the two variables.  The data that exists from multiple studies have indicated that harassment is degrading, frightening, and sometimes physically violent; frequently extends over a considerable period of time; and can result in profound job-related, psychological, and health-related consequences for women in the workplace (Fitzgerald, 1993; Fitzgerald et al., 1997; Vijayasiri & Herring, 2006; Richman et al., 1999).  The purpose of this chapter is to analyze past research and findings on the correlation between sexual harassment and gender in the workplace to clearly define the issue and specify the correlating factors surrounding these two variables.  More commonly than not, instances where women have been sexually harassed by men are viewed for their prevalence of gender stereotypes and existence within the workplace (Stein, 1999; Welsh, 1999).  The goal of this study is not to examine biases and stereotypes, but rather to emphasize the correlation between the two variables as they interrelate with one another.  To achieve this goal, this study will remain unbiased and only make note of stereotypes and biases instead of adding to them through a review of the literature and research produced on gender and sexual harassment.

Legal Concerns in the Workplace

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that is in direct violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court made employers more liable for sexual harassment of their employees (SexualHarassmentSupport.org).  Legal action can now be taken upon the employer for allowing sexual harassment to exist within their work environments.  This forces many employers to engage in strict human resource practices that specific a sexual harassment policy and actively works to eliminate the prevalence of sexual harassment towards any person of any gender within the work environment.  Moreover, the Society for Human Resource Management has reported that 62% of companies now offer sexual harassment prevention training programs, and 97% of all companies have a written sexual harassment policy (SexualHarassmentSupport.org).  Within the previous chapter, the relationship of the Supreme Court verdict in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. was thoroughly discussed that expanded the definition of a hostile workplace and was a pertinent example for future defendants to win sexual harassment suits.  These landmark cases and statistics help set the forefront for the problems associated with sexual harassment and gender in the workplace today.

Furthermore, Benson and Thomson (1992) showed that women in various occupations and institutions have taken legal action in response to sexual harassment or the repercussions of failing to comply with the sexual demands of male superiors.  In these scenarios, evidence showed that women become the victims within the workplace by either being forced to become subjected to sexual harassment, or they become victimized when they stand up to themselves against male superiors that have made sexual passes or implications upon the women employees (Gruber, 1998; Marican, 1985).  In Fiscal Year 2008, the EEOC received 13,867 charges of sexual harassment, where 84.1% of all charges were filed by females.  The EEOC resolved 11,731 sexual harassment charges in 2008 and recovered over $47.4 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals, which does not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation (EEOC.gov, 2009).  This resource shows that not all cases of sexual harassment charges are from women.  There were 15.9% of charges that were sent and filed to the EEOC that were by men, which leads us to believe that there is a growing prevalence for sexual harassment towards males based on gender or sexual preference.  Although the evidence does not state purposes for sexual harassment toward men, it is clear that the problem does exist on both spectrums of the gender barriers and is still a major issue with women being the victims.

Male Dominancy and Prevalence of Sexual Harassment

Benson and Thomson (1982) further provided findings for the prevalence of sexual harassment at universities that has a cumulative effect that erodes the commitment levels that women have to their careers when they experience male-dominated work environments.  Within their research, women were questioned about sexual harassment behaviors in the workplace.  The results of these questionnaires and interviews showed that over 30% of women reported having received unwanted sexual attention from at least one male instructor during their four years at college (Benson & Thomson, 1982).  These results are specific within the educational environment where male professors at the collegiate levels become the culprits of sexual harassment behaviors upon female students.  Although this study currently focuses on the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender within the work environment, it is important to understand the high percentage of women that become victimized prior to graduation from college and entering the work force (Patai, 1996).  The researchers have claimed that sexual harassment in courses by male professors force women to carefully monitor and try to avoid new instructors that harass them, and sexual harassment can often force women to lose their academic self-confidence and become disillusioned with male faculty (Benson & Thomson, 1982).  These results may clearly have a correlating impact on women as they enter the workforce and begin to operate with male superiors or co-employees.  A destruction of self-confidence or disillusionment prior to entering the professional work environments can lead to a precursor to inappropriate actions or perceptions of sexual harassment.

Based on previous research and theory, Gelfand et al. (1995) proposed a study that examined the correlation of sexual harassment factors such as gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.  The researchers further tested these factors and analyzed them simultaneously within three populations that were randomly selected from the United States and Brazil to examine the cultural implications of sexual harassment in the workplace.  The results showed large percentages that suggested that males were more likely to use their stereotypical domination of women to force sexual harassment upon their gender counterparts.  This further supports the belief that male dominancy has a direct correlation upon the prevalence of sexual harassment, especially within the confines of the male-female relationships within the work environment.  These stereotypical positions of power often tend to continue to mold the beliefs and actions of men despite the legal ramifications for inappropriate behavior in the workplace or the growing change of the stereotypes within social perceptions.  Therefore, it is safe to assume that males continue to use their physical presence as a basis for supporting the right to sexually harass women and neglect any understanding of possible punishments or inappropriateness for their behaviors (Konrad & Gutek, 1986; Marican, 1985; Gelfand et al., 1995).

Gender and Sexual Harassment

While the prevalence of sexual harassment has been clearly described from statistics of the EEOC and myriad lawsuits that exist every year, this study continues to search for an active correlation between gender and sexual harassment in the workplace.  Much of the previous research has shown that there is a high percentage of cases where sexual harassment in the work environment is committed against women.  It is important to note that although 84.1% of sexual harassment claims to the EEOC were charged from women, this does not include statistical information of sexual harassment incidents that were not reported.  This figure may indeed be much greater than previously stated.  However, within an organizational climate, job gender is a critical antecedent of sexual harassment, which consequently influences work-related variables such as job satisfaction and motivation, psychological states such as anxiety and depression, as well as overall physical health (Fitzgerald et al., 1997; Riger, 1991; Williams et al., 1999).  According to the results of Fitzgerald et al. (1997), evidence has showed that there exists a clear relationship of sexual harassment when women have male superiors.  Meanwhile, other evidence has suggested that men are growingly becoming the victims of sexual harassment mostly by other men (EEOC.gov, 1999; Einarsen & Raknes, 1997; Rotundo et al., 2001).  This finding clearly shows that men are statistically more likely to commit sexual harassment upon women and now some cases of men within the work environment.

On the other hand, much evidence examined that the role of power within the organization has a direct impact on the sexual harassment of women even further.  Through a study performed by Cooper (2009), results showed that nearly fifty percent of women supervisors reported sexual harassment in the workplace.  Furthermore, women supervisors were 137% more likely to be sexually harassed than women who did not hold managerial roles.  Meanwhile, as supervisory status increased the likelihood of harassment among women, it did not show any points of significance upon the likelihood of sexual harassment for men.  This adds another factor to this discussion to determining and defining a correlation between sexual harassment and gender in the workplace.  A position of power tends to draw much attention toward a woman, rather than a man, and can cause much greater prevalence for women to become the victims of sexual harassment.  This is often believed to be the case because women of power do not follow typical gender stereotypes, and feelings of contempt, jealousy and inferiority build up within men that force them to search for an outlet for their feelings.  Unfortunately, these feelings tend to be taken out on the woman that is in the position of power and the superiority-inferiority definitions of employment positions are no longer considered.  Instead, men choose to react to their feelings negatively and force the woman with a position of power to become the victim.

Through examining this correlation from another perspective, it may be possible to draw a greater understanding for this correlation between sexual harassment and gender in the workplace.  Many people consider this to be an issue between fellow co-workers or employees and managers.  However, one study has examined the prevalence of sexual harassment from patients upon nurses in the medical field.  Many academic professionals would compare this analysis of the issue to that of a customer sexually harassing a business worker.  Oftentimes, this is seen in the dining services industries where waitresses of all ages are sexually harassed by male customers.  Returning to the issue of sexual harassment in the nursing profession, several studies have been conducted to indicate factors or risks associated with sexual harassment of nurses.  Results have shown that female gender, job title, level of experience, length of employment, physical-care duties, and traditional stereotypes relating to female nurses are central factors associated with sexual harassment of nurses (Hibino et al., 2008).  In many cases, the results of this study shows that patients oftentimes commit sexual harassment against nurses that have higher job titles or responsibilities, which is similar to the previous discussion of women holding positions of power.  In this case, however, the level of education that a woman has can often be used as a factor that can influence men to commit sexual harassment against female nurses, which stems from the belief that intelligence and power intrigues the sexual libido of the male.

Conclusion

While the prevalence of sexual harassment within the workplace is very clear, it is often the case that men sexually harass women in greater instances than vice versa.  Consequently, this is supported by the cultural stereotypes of male dominancy over women.  In many cases, women that hold positions of power are much more likely to become sexually harassed than woman that do not hold such positions within the work environment.  This suggests that there could be a behavioral trend for men to fight the growth and advancement of women in the workplace and consciously, or subconsciously, work to keep women in a lower position than themselves.  However, this study also recognizes that men also sexually harass other men based on social position and sexual preference; although very little research supports this claim for the purpose of sexual harassment by men against other men.  It is also important to observe that very little information exists for men being the victims of sexual harassment by women.  Nevertheless, it is clear that there is a negative correlation between gender roles and sexual harassment within the workplace.

Further research must be performed in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the negative causes and effects of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Gender must be viewed as a correlating causal factor for sexual harassment behaviors.  Furthermore, it is necessary to examine the unclear thought process that causes individuals to commit acts of sexual harassment despite the clearly-defined punishments by the legal system and the employer.  It almost appears as though individuals neglect to consider these negative consequences for inappropriate behaviors when performing the acts of sexual harassment in the workplace.  A cognitive relationship between cultural positions of power and male dominancy may override the logical thought processes that would otherwise restrict such behaviors.  As it has been declared, almost 14,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported to the EEOC in the fiscal year of 2008, which makes it clear that this is not a non-issue and must continue to be carefully examined by further research.

The research within this study thus far has definitely helped us gain a deeper appreciation for the factors that can lead to a growing prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Unfortunately, very little research actively correlates the variables of gender and sexual harassment as they interrelate with one another, which makes this study very appealing for its infancy in the academic community.  Additional research should be conducted in order to gain a further understanding of this correlation between the two variables.  The greatest piece of literature that garnered much information came from Hibino et al. that was the only piece of literature that examined sexual harassment from an alternative point of view.  This study helped shine light on the relationship of the customer or patient, with the employee or the nurse professional.  All other literary works included a summary of findings where sexual harassment existed between co-workers or between employees and managers and vice versa.  Hibino et al. provide a different perspective that helps draw the cultural and social stereotypes to the forefront of the issue.  In this scenario, no legal ramifications from the company are hindering customers or patients from sexually harassing employees; therefore, there must be another factor that can hinder this action besides legal action taken in court by the victimized employee, themselves.

Perhaps there is a greater moral code that is inherent within each of us that states that sexually harassing another individual, regardless of the reasoning, is morally wrong.  Unfortunately, evidence suggests that many people do not consider a moral code or legal ramifications when committing acts of sexual harassment upon ‘inferior’ individuals of opposite sex or social position.  The concept of demeaning women of power is also very intriguing in understanding the correlation between gender roles and dominancy as they relate to sexual harassment.  This research has helped us come to very clear conclusions on this issue that allows us to support the claim that additional research must be performed and there must be a clearly stated policy within the legal system and through social intolerance that does not allow sexual harassment to continue to negatively impact the victims within the workplace environment.

References

Benson, D.J. and Thomson, G.E. (1982). Sexual harassment on a university campus, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.jstor.org/pss/800157

Cooper, J. (2009). Female supervisors more susceptible to workplace sexual harassment, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-08/asa-fsm073009.php

EEOC.gov. (2009, March 11). Sexual harassment. Retrieved on October 28, 2009, from Web site: http://www.eeoc.gov/types/sexual_harassment.html

Einarsen, S. and Raknes, B.I. (1997). Harassment in the workplace and the victimization of men, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/vav/1997/00000012/00000003/art00005

Fitzgerald, L.F. (1993). Sexual harassment: violence against women in the workplace, American Psychologist. Vol 48(10). Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1994-11711-001&CFID=2507120&Cftoken=56396066

Fitzgerald, L.F.; Drasgow, F.; Hulin, C.L.; Gelfand, M.J.; Magley, V.J. (1997). Journal of Applied Psychology. Vol. 82(4). Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1997-05398-011&CFID=2507120&Cftoken=56396066

Gelfand, M.J., Fitzgerald, L.F. and Drasgow, F. (1995). The structure of sexual harassment: A confirmatory analysis across cultures and settings, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WMN-45R8GFD-8&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1068823195&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=f0a3fb9945073bf4258df2244227ebd0

Gruber, J.E. (1998). The Impact of Male Work Environment, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.jstor.org/pss/190287

Hibino, Y., Hitomi, Y., Kambayashi, Y., & Nakamura, H. (2008). Exploring factors associated with the incidence of sexual harassment of hospital nurses by patients. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 41(2), 124-131.

Konrad, A.M. and Gutek, B.A. (1986). Administrative Science Quarterly, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2392831

Marican, S. (1985). Effects of Gender and Attitude towards Perception of Sexual Harassment At Workplace, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://h08.cgpublisher.com/proposals/235/index_html

Patai, D. (1998) Galloping Contradictions: Sexual Harassment in Academe. Gender Issues, Winter/Spring 16 1/2: 86. Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://daphne.palomar.edu/psycsoc125/HSClass/research/resrch04.html

Richman, J.A., Rospenda, K.M., Nawyn, S.J., Flaherty, J.A., Fendrich, M., Drum, M.L. and Johnson, T.P. (1999). Sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse among university employees: prevalence and mental health correlates. Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/89/3/358

Riger, S. (1991). Gender dilemmas in sexual harassment policies and procedures, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1991-27670-001&CFID=2507120&Cftoken=56396066

Rotundo, M., Nguyen, D.H., and Sackett, P.R. (2001). A meta-analytic review of gender differences in perceptions of sexual harassment, Journal of Applied Psychology, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2001-18662-009&CFID=2507120&Cftoken=56396066

Russel, D.E.H. (1984), Sexual exploitation: Rape, child sexual abuse, and workplace harassment. Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.ncjrs.gov/app/abstractdb/AbstractDBDetails.aspx?id=95744

SexualHarassmentSupport.org. (n.d.). Sexual harassment in the workplace. Retrieved on October 28, 2009, from Web site: http://www.sexualharassmentsupport.org/SHworkplace.html

Stein, L.W. (1999). Sexual Harassment in America: A Documentary History, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=25995266

Vijayasiri, G. and Herring, C. (2006). Gender Composition, Organizational Climate, and Sexual Harassment at Work. Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/0/3/1/1/pages103114/p103114-12.php

Welsh, S. (1999). Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 25: 169-190. Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.169

Williams, C.L., Giuffre, P.A., and Dellinger, K. (1999) Sexuality in the Workplace: Organizational Control, Sexual Harassment, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 25: 73-93, Last Retrieved on October 22, 2009, from Web site: http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.73

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