Monday, 1 November 2010

Mild Sexual Harassment Impacts Women'S Experience of the Workplace

by Kimberly T. Schne

Job Vacancies, Employment, Employment Jobs

Even relatively mild forms of sexual harassment such as crude comments or sexist jokes over time can cause significant psychological distress, say researchers in a new study.

"We found that women who experienced mild sexual harassment involving sexual remarks or sexist put-downs had lower psychological well-being and worse job attitudes compared with women who did not experience these behaviors," said psychologist Kimberly T. Schneider, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at El Paso, lead author of a study co-authored with Suzanne Swan, Ph.D., of Yale University & Louise F. Fitzgerald, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The authors determined how harassment affected women in different employment settings by asking 447 private sector women and 300 female university employees how often they experienced sexist behavior, crude sexual jokes and unwanted sexual attention (touching, hugging, stroking or repeated pressure for dates).

They also asked these women how often other types of sexual harassment occurred, such as demands for sexual favors following threats of job loss or promises of promotions.

Finally, the authors asked the women how satisfied they were with their work, their co-workers, supervisors and how often they called in sick, were late and isolated themselves at work.

Women who experienced moderate to high frequencies, of relatively mild forms of sexual harassment such as sexist put-downs, reported less satisfaction with their jobs and more psychological stress compared with those who had not been harassed.

"The most important thing we learned from this study," said Dr. Schneider,"is that if it happens often enough, even women who have experienced relatively mild harassment have negative outcomes.

A woman does not necessarily have to be sexually coerced for harassment to affect how she feels about her job. Because of this, we recommend that managers not dismiss claims of sexual harassment even if such harassment does not appear particularly serious to them. To the employees who are the targets of the such behavior, it is serious."

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