Black women more likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace, study finds

'It seems as though men have gotten more careful about who they're harassing and have been targeting women of colour, who may be less likely to report the harassment,' says report author

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Tuesday 09 July 2019 17:53
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The study found male predators in the workplace tend to prey on women whom they deem to be less powerful and less likely to file a harassment complaint
The study found male predators in the workplace tend to prey on women whom they deem to be less powerful and less likely to file a harassment complaint

Black women are much more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment in the US workplace than their white peers, according to a new study.

Despite the overall number of reported incidents is on the decline, researchers found that male predators tended to prey on women who they deemed to be less powerful and less likely to file a harassment complaint.

The likelihood that an individual white woman would report sexual harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "dropped by more than 70 per cent between 1996 and 2016,” the study published in the journal Gender, Work and Organisation, stated.

“The rate for African-American women dropped by only 38 per cent.”

In 1996, African-American women were twice as likely as white women to report sexual harassment to the EEOC, researchers found. In 2016, they were four times more likely to do so

“Over the past 20 years, we’ve made great strides in reducing sexual harassment in the workplace, but those benefits have all gone to white women, and mostly to young white women,” said one of the study's authors, Dan Cassino, an associate professor of political science at the Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

“It seems as though men have gotten more careful about who they’re harassing and have been targeting women of colour, who may be less likely to report the harassment.”

He drew the conclusion, along with sociology professor, Yasemin Besen-Cassino of New Jersey's Montclair State University, after analysing EEOC data from 1997 to 2016.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is an expression of power – a way for men to assert their dominance,” the report states. “The shift from sexual harassment of white women to African-American women indicates that harassers are conscious of power relationships, and choose to target more vulnerable women in their workplaces.”

The authors also found a correlation between the national unemployment rate and incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace.

“When the unemployment rate goes up, producing greater social strain and a need to assert dominance, reported sexual harassment goes up as well,” they wrote.

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