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Why are women executives so vulnerable to sexual harassment?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Sexual Harassment

The stereotypical image of workplace sexual harassment has long been the male boss chasing a female secretary around a desk. Given the power dynamics involved in “quid pro quo” harassment, that’s understandable.

However, studies show that women supervisors and executives actually experience incidents of sexual harassment at rates that are significantly higher than those experienced by women in subordinate positions, particularly in male-dominated industries.

What drives sexual harassment against women in power?

It’s a mistake to think of sexual harassment as being about sex because it’s really about power. When women ascend to management or executive positions, it can challenge traditional gender norms and threaten what many perceive as normal and established power structures. Societal misconceptions and stereotypes about women in leadership roles also contribute to the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Female executives may be subjected to derogatory comments, objectification or belittlement based on gender stereotypes that undermine their authority and competence. These biases not only foster a hostile work environment but also embolden perpetrators to engage in inappropriate behavior with impunity. Some men may even resort to harassment as a means of consciously or subconsciously asserting dominance and restoring the existing hierarchy.

Women in management and executive roles also often feel isolated and like they have little social support because their peers – who are largely men – don’t have the same experiences. This isolation can make them more vulnerable to harassment, especially if they’re afraid of being seen as “weak” or unable to handle their employees. They may worry that reporting the harassment will be a career killer.

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you have rights – no matter what your position. Learning more about your legal options can help you decide how best to proceed.