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Harassment and women at the top of the corporate ladder


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People commonly associate sexual harassment happening to women who are in lower positions in the workplace. It might seem that women who ascend to higher places within a business or a large corporation could better escape this kind of harassment. Unfortunately, a recent study has shown this may not be the case.

An article by Forbes reported on a study conducted on sexual harassment in workplaces in a number of countries, including the United States. The study, which used data from various years in the 2000s decade, questioned female respondents on whether they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

The results of the study

The study gave respondents a list-based survey asking if they had been in work situations where individuals behaved in a possibly harassing fashion. The study also presented a subjective question that simply asked respondents if they had ever been sexually harassed in the past twelve months.

In a surprising development, the research showed that women who reached supervisory positions within a business were increasingly likely to experience harassment. The results found that U.S. women were 50% more likely to experience harassment based on answers from the list-based survey. The response to the subjective question yielded an even higher increase of 100%.

Explaining the results

The Forbes article speculated that women in supervisory positions worked with more groups of people, which opened them up to possible harassment not only from higher level management but also from subordinates. However, women who ascended to the very top of the corporate structure reported less instances of harassment. This was possibly because higher ranking women do not interact with as many people, so they do not make contact with as many potential harassers.

The power paradox

The results of the study show that women who ascend the corporate ladder could end up in environments where harassment is more likely to happen, and they only lessen their chance of harassment if they manage to rise to a very high position in the workplace. This creates a power paradox that many people may not be aware exists in American businesses.

Still, no matter where a woman happens to be in a workplace hierarchy, sexual harassment is never deserved and no workplace should tolerate it. Even women in positions of authority have the right to litigate for damages if they suffer harassment from other workers.

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