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Being at the top does not stop harassment

Sometimes having a top-notch job can come at heavy price. Especially if you’re not part of the boys’ club.

Sometimes having a top-notch job can come at heavy price. Especially if you’re not part of the boys’ club.

It’s no secret that sexual harassment in the workplace exists, but what is surprising is where it’s directed. A recent Globe and Mail article revealed that almost 50 per cent of women in positions of power reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace — a number much higher than those in non-management positions.

“This makes sense in terms of what we know,” said Louise Ripley, York University professor of Business and Women’s Studies, “that power is at the root of the harassment. It’s not about sex.”

Ripley, who teaches a Gender Issues and Management course, told Metro that men often respond to women in power by trying to bring them down. Doing so, she says, is an attempt to reduce their power and establish dominance and boundaries in the workplace. Sexuality is often the approach men take to stake out their position.

It’s true, of course, that it’s not just women in managerial positions who face harassment. It’s just a different kind. The harassment faced by women in higher positions is more subtle, she says, that is not overtly sexual in nature.

She says that women in non-managerial positions do not provide as much of a power threat to male employees, so they are less susceptible to certain types of harassment. However when they are subject to harassment, support systems are thin.

“Women at the lowest level can be threatened without repercussion,” Ripley explained.

The lack of repercussion comes from limited support systems. For example, there are often not many women in power for them to turn to help or advice.

Ripley, however, maintains a positive outlook for the situations women face in the workplace at all levels of employment. As time passes and more men and women work together in university courses and other areas, they are able to form relationships based on respect and understanding, she said.

She also mentioned that as increasing numbers of women are employed in management positions it becomes less of a novelty, which should reduce the harassment levels women are currently exposed to.

 
 
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