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Can female employees climb their way out of harassment?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Workplace Harassment

If you are a female employee who has suffered sexual harassment, then you might see climbing the career ladder as a way to escape it. You might assume that as you gain status and power fewer people will dare to act inappropriately toward you.

Unfortunately, this is not true. A 2020 study looked into the matter and found that if anything, climbing the career ladder could expose you to more sexual harassment. Here is why:

Sexual harassment is about power, not sex

Some men believe in an order of things where men are superior to women, in the workplace at least. The thought of a female telling them what to do at work, or even being seen as an equal to them is so upsetting that they turn to sexually harassing the woman to “let her know her place.”

They might do it early, to put her off attempting to climb the ladder. Or they might do it once she has already done so, to try and push her to quit or to prevent her from feeling comfortable enough to exercise her voice and authority.

The higher a woman climbs the more people she threatens

If you work on reception, most men won’t feel threatened by you. Men who have issues with women in power will be happy knowing that you are officially below them in the company rankings. Once you climb the ranks, you have the authority to tell more men what to do. More men will also know who you are as you gain more prominence. Those higher up the scale may start to fear you, and try to put you down before you get equal status to them.

Sexual harassment is not just done by men to women, of course, but that is the most prevalent form. Rather than trying to climb your way out of it, it is better to get early legal help to stop it if your employer is not willing to tackle it.