Sexual harassment has had a large presence in male-dominated organizations. It is believed that it occurs in these organizations because women are holding positions that were traditionally filled by men. Surprisingly, if a woman had masculine traits, then she is more susceptible to sexual harassment. Hershcovis and Barling (2010) suggest that sexual harassment degrades an individuals gender and thus lowers his/her status/credibility. When this occurs, female victims view the incident as an attack on their gender instead of on themselves. Sexual harassment on men is far less threatening and may even reinforce their male gender role.
Hershcovis and Barling (2010) set out to research the attributable differences between sexual harassment and workplace aggression. An online survey was administered to 117 participants. Participants were provided a story that differed based on the following dimensions: gender dominant workplace vs. gender neutral workplace (equal distribution among men & women) and workplace aggression vs. sexual harassment. Participants were asked to rate the scenario on how descriptive it was of sexual harassment and workplace aggression on a 1-5 scale. They were also asked to allocate the blame based on a hundred points between themselves and the perpetrator. In addition, survey respondents answered questions evaluating internal attribution, personal attribution, gender attribution, external attribution, aggression ambiguity, and severity. Gender was also collected as a controlled variable.
A multivariate analysis revealed a significance between workplace aggression and sexual harassment, F(6,98) = 14.80, p<.001. It was also found that participants in the gender-dominant scenario were more likely to make an internal attribution in the workplace aggression scenario (M = 2.72) than the sexual harassment scenario ( M = 1.67). Participants that were part of the workplace aggression scenario were more likely to take the encounter personally than those in the sexual harassment scenario. Those that partook in the sexual harassment scenario were more likely to blame their bully's attitudes, F (1,108) = 19.01, p < .01, on their gender and account them for the blame, F (1,108) = 8.92, p < .01. Participants that were in the workplace aggression scenario were more likely to blame themselves instead of the bully than those in the sexual harassment scenario. Gender distribution within the organization had no effect on sexual harassment but participants in the workplace aggression sample were more likely to make a gender attribution than in the gender-neutral environment.
Source: Herschcovis, M.S., Barling, J. (2010). Comparing victim attributions and outcomes for workplace aggression and sexual harassment. American Psychological Association, 95 (5), 874-888.