Women More Sexually Harassed at Workplace With Equally Mixed Gender Groups

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 15 2008 12:54 PM

Contrary to the common assumptions, women experience more sexual harassment in work groups with equal number of males and females.

It has long been believed that women who worked in predominantly male or female groups are at a greater risk of facing sexual harassment at work place, however, the new study has something different to offer.

'Some people argue that women are more likely to be harassed when there are just a few women, and other people argue that women are harassed when they are the dominant group in an occupation,' said Randy Hodson, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

'But we found that actually was not the case. Most sexual harassment occurs in situations in equally mixed gender groups,' he added.

The researchers looked at 110 work groups and found that women who work in relatively equally matched gender groups were more likely to experience taunting, patronizing, and predatory behaviours.

Hodson said the logic behind the finding is simple that sexual harassment occurs where there is more opportunity.

"There is a lot more opportunity in these groups because you have a lot of men who have contact on a regular basis with a lot of women, and that's going to create more opportunities for sexual harassment."

"When women are less represented or when they are mainly working with other women, there is simply not as much opportunity," he added.

Work groups that were predominantly female were more likely to be targeted through patronizing behaviours.

The study found that the characteristics of a person's job also influenced the likelihood and type of harassment. While increased job security was effective in combating the worst forms of sexual harassment, other factors were less effective.

Women who had more autonomy, for example, were more likely to be the victim of every type of sexual harassment. More power in some organizations led to women being taunted, but it also opened the door for sexual solicitation, threats, and forced sexual contact.