A Large Problem of Sexual Harassment: Description of the Problem, Essay Example

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There has consistently been a large problem of sexual harassment incidents in the United States and in foreign nations.  Specifically, the workplace is a common setting for sexual harassment incidents to occur, and most often subject women as the common victims of such actions.  Sexual harassment and gender bias in workplace has been has been a point of contention and debate for a long time.  Physical and emotional damages impact the victim’s ability to properly perform work-related duties and often lead to punishments or restrictions of duties (Marican, 1995; Russel, 1984; Fitzgerald, 1993).  However, due to the increased social resistance to oppression and legalized equality, discrimination and sexual harassment have become a highly punished crime in the workplace.  Nevertheless, human resource personnel lack the ability to properly predict future sexual harassment incidents and provide a large prevalence for sexual harassment in the workplace still to this day.  Throughout this chapter, this study and the scope of the problem will be clearly defined.  The purpose of this study is to help create a basis for possible causal factors of incidents by evaluating a possible correlation between sexual harassment and gender.
Problem Definition
The current correlation between sexual harassment and gender is unclear and is the basis for this project.  Roughly 11,731 sexual harassment charges were filed in 2008, which resulted in over $47.4 million in fines and reparations (EEOC.gov, 2009).  Very little research and academic information exists to evaluate any existing correlation between these two variables in the workplace.  Given the extent of the issue, it is clear that the social, economic, and corporate environments lack a complete understanding for the potential causal factors of sexual harassment as they may be interrelated with gender biases and cultural definitions of gender role responsibilities.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this project is to accurately and efficiently determine any possible correlation between the variables of sexual harassment and gender.  Through literature review and social surveys, this study will seek to clearly define these variables as they are interrelated within the workplace.  The correlation must clearly be defined and understood in order to help resolve the social and economic problems associated with sexual harassment and gender in the workplace.
Setting of the Problem
Although sexual harassment is a large issue in many settings, the specific setting for this study was corporate and business environments.  These settings are not limited in terms of this study and have been defined as any place where business is conducted.  By devising a broad setting, this study hopes to analyze a much wider scope of the issue to clearly define and analyze the correlation between sexual harassment and gender in the workplace.  It is important to clarify that these environments are not limited to an administrative setting; they can also involve restaurants, medical facilities, and any other place where formal, legalized business of any kind is conducted.
History and Background of the Problem
The word sexual harassment was conceptualised in 1970, although the actual concept existed well before.  During this time period, there was a strong upsurge and vocal protest about sexual harassment and its potential negative effects on individuals and the working environment.  A group of women changed the dimension and gravity of protests in face of such behavior.  One such example of the extent of this issue in the 1970s comes from the case of Lin Farley.  Farley found that as she taught a course at Cornell University in 1974, she found that she found that many of her students had left jobs because of the behavior of men in the work place (Patai, 1998).  In 1978 Farley published Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women on the Job, which ultimately became the first step toward action on the issue.  Catharine MacKinnon then published The Sexual Harassment of Working Women in 1979, which proposed the argument that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination that violated the provisions within the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Patai, 1998).
In her book, Farley made her point clear that sexually aggressive men had transformed the workplace environment into an intolerable, unhealthy and unproductive atmosphere.  The sexual harassment movement gained momentum when Carmita Wood, a 44-year old assistant, working in the office of a Cornell physicist fell ill and had to abandon the job.  She revealed the fact that the continuous advances from her boss made her susceptible to depression and filed for unemployment compensation in Ithaca, New York.  She reaped the first seeds of revolt and exposed the forum, where such immoral activities could not only penalise the offenders but also compensate the victims. Thus, during the 1970s, courts began to decipher and implement action as for pre-existing laws that prohibited gender bias in employment to bar sexual harassment of workers.  Unfortunately, as it is has been previously mentioned the number of sexual harassment cases filed in 2008 was still quite large and shows that this issue is still a major factor in the workplace environment today.
Scope of the Project
Due to the extent of sexual harassment incidents that still exist to this day, this report seeks to focus on the gender issues that correlate with such incidents.  The research will focus on sexual harassment and gender in the workplace, and clearly define these variables as they appear to be interrelated.  According to the data from 2002-2003 National Organizations Study, this paper interprets how gender composition leads to the incidence of sexual harassment.  Preliminary observation reveals a positive and discrete increase in the cases of sexual harassment with the increase in the proportion of women to men in the workplace.  The questions being asked throughout this study include 1. Are women or men more likely to be the victims of sexual harassment?; 2. Is organizational power or job responsibility associated with sexual harassment among different genders?; 3. What stereotypical gender definitions exist that may act as causal factors for sexual harassment?; 4. What cognitive issues exist among men or women that force them to engage in sexual harassment behaviors despite the clear definition of human resource policies and state or federal law?
The purpose is to understand the conditions and situations that lead to such behavior, as well as the overall correlation between sexual harassment and gender.  Gender categorization and limited social views towards ‘inferior’ individuals have increased the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace.  This analysis will critically examine these variables and the environmental and culture factors surrounding them to ascertain an understanding of why as much as half of working women have reported experiencing sexual harassment at some point (Fitzgerald et al., 1997).  These activities affect the psychological makeup of the women workers and can lead to depression, suicide and even gross losses of financial assets for the company.
Importance of the Project
Due to the large prevalence of sexual harassment in the United States work environments, it is clear that information must be determined to help calculate possible causes of these incidents.  This study focuses on the correlation between sexual harassment and gender in an effort to define a potential causal factor for businesses and human resource personnel to apply to work procedures and policies.  By being able to possible predict future sexual harassment incidents, administrators may be able to take qualitative steps to ensuring that the causal factors are addressed and removed to ensure a healthy and productive work environment.
Definition of Terms
In order to properly understand the information throughout this project, a list of terms and has been defined:
Gender – the sexual orientation or physical appearance of an individual
Sexual harassment – any negative act that attempts to demean, bemoan, or restrict the ability of an individual to perform actions based on the victim’s sex.
Civil Right Act of 1964 – a bill passed by the United States government regulating the restriction and discrimination of individuals based on race, sex and religion.
As this chapter has clearly shown, the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace has continued to exist as a large problem for individuals and companies in the United States.  Very little information directly addresses the correlation between gender and sexual harassment.  This study attempts to focus on the correlation between these variables to draw appropriate conclusions for human resource personnel and business professionals to predict possible occurrences of sexual harassment based on gender definitions, stereotypes or positions of power within an organization.  Another factor that will attempt to be briefly discussed during this project will be the cognitive processes by which individuals utilize to justify sexual harassment behaviors despite potential punishments described within company policies and state or federal law.  To further advance this project, a review of the available literature on this correlation will ensue and should provide ample information for direct field analysis and surveys of society.
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