You’re a woman who has never let anything stand in the way of her goals, and you’ve finally reached a well-earned position of authority in your company. Now that you’re “the boss,” does that mean you no longer have to worry about sexual harassment?
Not at all. In fact, you may have just become a target.
Women in leadership roles experience more sexual harassment than ordinary workers
A study that looked at the experiences of women in the United States, Sweden and Japan found striking similarities in the reports of sexual harassment. Women in positions of authority were anywhere from 30% to 100% more likely to be sexually harassed than women who weren’t.
Intuitively, it seems like that should be the other way around – until you realize that sexual harassment is about power, not sex. Those inclined to weaponize their sexuality may:
- Resent the idea that a woman has been placed in a leadership position over them
- Believe that the position is undeserved, that the woman is merely “filling a quota”
- Want to assert their dominance in some way over their female boss
- Get a thrill out of the idea that their female boss may hide what happened over fears of what the publicity would do to her reputation and career
- Know that a female boss may be reluctant to disclose sexual harassment by a subordinate because they don’t want to appear weak or incapable
It’s only speculation, but researchers believe that stereotypes about women bosses and the fact that women executives are breaking old-fashioned gender norms do play a part in putting a target on their backs for harassment.
If you’ve experienced workplace harassment at any level, find out what steps you can take to protect your future.