Promotion does not reduce the risk of sexual harassment

Professor Anita Hill once said: “One way abuse of power is manifested is through sexual harassment … but it’s also manifested through pay inequity. It’s also manifested through lack of leadership opportunities. It’s also manifested just by day to day aggressions that occur.”

It may seem logical that the way for women to escape sexual harassment is to progress up the career ladder so that they are the ones with power.

Sadly this is not the case. A study asking women if they had experienced sexual harassment at work found those in management positions were between 30% and 100% more likely to answer yes than those in non-supervisory roles.

Researchers thought this was due to two things:

  1. Women in senior roles are visible to more men than those who are entry-level workers. Thus they are exposed to more potential harassers.
  2. The higher a woman moves up the career ladder, the more likely it is for a man to see her as a threat. As a lower-level employee, they do not see her as threatening. When she becomes their boss, they do. Her senior managers may also fear she might overtake them. Men who feel threatened by a woman superior may use sexual harassment to bring her back down and regain their power over her.

The actions highlighted by Anita Hill, aggressions, pay inequity and lack of opportunities because of your gender, are all illegal in the workplace. They are considered discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

You have the right to report them to your boss or file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), without fear of retaliation from your employer.


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