Training Programs and Reporting Systems Won’t End Sexual Harassment. Promoting More Women Will

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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We already know how to reduce sexual harassment at work, and the answer is actually pretty simple: Hire and promote more women. Research suggests that this solution addresses two root causes of harassment.

First, as a raft of studies has shown, harassment flourishes in workplaces where men dominate in management and women have little power. We’ve recently seen this imbalance wreak havoc in the entertainment and media industries, where it’s long been understood that major players like movie producer Harvey Weinstein and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes could easily make or break women’s careers. But this is also happening across the economy, with women in tech and law, saleswomen (particularly in retail), waitresses, hotel maids, and many others. Male-dominated management teams have been found to

Second, harassment flourishes in organizations where few women hold the “core” jobs. Fixing this is about finding power in numbers, not just in authority and hierarchy. Female firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and miners are frequently harassed because they’re outnumbered. So are women in the tech industry, advertising, journalism, and our own field — academia. Again, the answer is to bring more of them into the ranks. In industries and workplaces where women are well represented in the core jobs, harassment is significantly less likely to occur.

If it’s that simple, why aren’t companies putting more women into management roles and core jobs? One reason, ironically, is that women tend to leave workplaces where sexual harassment is common and goes unaddressed; the fight can feel hopeless in an environment where gender bias runs rampant. Another reason is that companies don’t take the steps proven to be effective for hiring and retaining women, such as setting up special college recruitment programs to telegraph that they actually want women in management, or creating formal mentoring programs to make sure everyone who wants a mentor gets one.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Frank Dobbin is a professor of sociology at Harvard University.

Alexandra Kalev is an associate professor of sociology at Tel Aviv University.

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