Holly Hicks, workplacerantings.com
Last year, there were over eleven thousand sexual harassment lawsuits filed in courts throughout the United States.
Women were the plaintiffs in nearly eighty five percent of those cases. While the days of groping the office secretary or calling her “sugar britches” are long gone, the possibility of harassment still looms for most women in the American workforce. It is a throwback of an earlier time period just after World War 2, when the white male reigned supreme both economically and socially.
To better understand how sexual harassment is still so prevalent, one has to appreciate the unique burdens placed on women who choose to compete in business arenas primarily dominated by men. From the very start, the woman is at a significant disadvantage. For example, while doing the same job as her male counterparts, she is paid significantly less for her work on average. Studies have also shown that women are intimidated into silence, often fearing to even advance a new idea which may conflict with a male co-worker’s point of view. This not only affects a female worker’s self esteem, but hinders the advancement of her career due to a perceived lack of drive. Given this degree of disenfranchisement, it isn’t any wonder that some male workers would begin to view females in the workplace as less than equals, or perhaps easy targets for their unsolicited affections.
Sexual harassment is a symptom of the greater male entitlement which is pervasive not only in offices across America but in other institutions as well. Even with all the progress that feminists have made over the last few decades, much work is still required in order to reach a true point of parity between the sexes. Yet today we see that there are political limitations which hinder this progress. While the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was eventually signed into law by President Barack Obama, for example, it took several years of intense and often frustrating debate in order to get the law through Congress and sent to the president for signature. While this is not uncommon for controversial legislation, the fact that simply providing a longer time frame under the law in which women can pursue legal claims for unfair pay was viewed as controversial is very troubling to many women’s rights advocates. Additionally, you have the recent controversy of ensuring that birth control pills are provided to women by insurance companies as part of the Affordable Care Act, which was a prominent topic during the 2012 Presidential Election, leading some critics to charge the Republican Party with waging a “war against women”.
The bottom line is that once men view women as being unequal to them, it is easier for conditions of harassment — including sexual harassment — to develop unabated by management. Given the circumstances of how unwelcome many women feel in their work environments, how chauvinism and anti feminism is both institutional and ingrained within our culture, one can only expect that sexual harassment will continue to be a growing problem. The only way to combat this is through greater education, better understanding, and expanded protection under the law.