, Volume 15, Issue 7-8, pp 433-442

The frequency, sources, and correlates of sexual harassment among women in traditional male occupations

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Abstract

Sexual harassment has increasingly come to be recognized as a major problem confronting working women. Utilizing the results of a survey of women in traditional male occupations (N=160), this paper summarizes some new data on the amount, type, and sources of harassment experienced by this group. Interpreting these findings within the content of the larger theory of patriarchy, it also identifies and provides further clarification of some individual and organizational correlates of harassment. The data offer provisional support for recent theoretical claims that women in male-defined occupations occupy a particularly problematic position vis-`a-vis men. Over 75% of the respondents reported experiencing at least one form of harassment as compared to the 50% + generally cited for the population as a whole. Consistent with the general cultural patterns of sexual violation, incidence of harassment was found to be inversely related to the level of severity. Probably predicated at least partially on opportunity structure, peers were cited as the most frequent source of harassment, followed by supervisors, subordinates and clients. A number of individual correlates of harassment were also identified. As expected, married workers and older respondents reported lower levels of harassment. A curvilinear relationship was found to exist between length of employment and harassment. Finally, respondents who were employed as managers and engineers reported approximately equal levels of harassment, while those in the professions such as the sciences, computers, public administration, etc., reported significantly lower levels of harassment. Consistent with the thesis of organizational culpability in the prevalence and persistence of sexual harassment, individuals employed in firms perceived to have high equal employment opportunity for women reported significantly lower levels of harassment than those in firms with low opportunity.