Harassment of Women at Workplace

Getting hired is merely an initial step for women (and minorities as well); getting promoted within a company often proves a more imposing challenge. For senior positions, promotions are very hard to achieve. This is commonly referred to as the glass ceiling syndrome-women and minorities can see opportunities for senior management positions but are blocked by seemingly invisible barriers from reaching them. Much of the decision to promote someone to a senior position is based on such intangibles as how comfortable the senior team is with that person. It is quite normal to be more comfortable with those who are similar to us in interests and background. Inadvertently, the glass ceiling is maintained because women may be excluded from activities that have traditionally been almost all male such as golf and sports conversations.

Sexual Harassment:

In addition, many women face sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment consists of any unwanted sexual behavior, including but not limited to suggestive looks, sexual jokes, touching, or pressure for sexual favors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has defined two types of sexual harassment at the workplace. The first, labeled quid pro quo harassment, occurs when sexual favors are requested or demanded in exchange for tangible benefits advancement, pay increases or to avoid tangible harmloss of job, demotion. The second type of harassment is labeled hostile environment. It is more complex because claims of this type can be made for unwelcome sexual conduct, either physical or verbal, that “unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job performance” or that can be said to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

It is difficult to pin point exactly what a hostile environment is; sensitivities differ and what is offensive to one woman is not necessarily offensive to another. President and CEO of Ryka Inc, maker of women’s athletic footwear, suggests that “every woman has her own gauge on what that means to her. For some women it might just be a comment or something that is said to her. For others it could be someone coming up and touching her”. The National Association for Female Executives surveyed 1,300 members and reported that 53% had experienced some form of sexual harassment by people with power over their jobs or careers. Only 36% of those women said that they had reported the incidents, and more than 50% of them said the situation was never resolved to their satisfaction.

Harassment around the world:

Sexual harassment is not a problem limited to the United States. Rather, studies show that it exists all over the world. According to a civil rights lawyer with the International Labor Office (ILO), sexual harassment is one of the true international issues. The ILO reported on surveys in 23 countries and disclosed that 15% to 30% of the women polled had experienced sexual harassment by supervisors or co-workers. A 1991 British survey revealed that 47% of the women and 14.5% of the men said that they had been sexually harassed. In Spain, a 1986 survey indicated that sexual remarks or jokes were made on the job towards 84% of the women workers polled, sexual looks or gestures were made toward 55%, and strong verbal advances or touching toward 27%. The Spanish government subsequently adopted a provision against workplace harassment in 1989.


The application of an assumed characteristic of a class of people (as defined by sex or race, for example) to an individual who belongs to the class, but may or may not have that characteristic. Women may be stereotyped as human resource managers or public relations executives rather than manufacturing vice presidents or marketing vice presidents. Women must also overcome stereotypes about maternity and child care; traditionally managers have assumed that women will drop out of the workforce to have a family, negating the investment that an organization has made in them.

Comments are closed.