Power Inequality and Its Effect on Female Harassment

The #MeToo movement has exploded thanks to fed-up women who have endured illegal exploitation in the workplace. Unfortunately, long-held cultural beliefs feed the falsehood that men cannot help their behavior.

Some men may use suggestive language or inappropriate touching when they feel they can escape consequences. When a court case backs a male defendant into a corner, he may claim that the inappropriate behavior was consensual, when in fact, the woman was intimidated into silence by the fear of losing her job.

What if male superiors deny harassment allegations by female subordinates?

ABCNews reported that the chairman of CBS television claimed consensual agreement from three of the many women who made allegations of unwanted harassment against him. To their credit, corporate leaders believed the accusations, fired the chairman and CBS donated his enormous severance package instead to the #MeToo movement.

How does power factor into the equation?

Lust can involve a physical craving for someone or a longing for power. Forbes notes that influential bosses or co-workers engage in workplace harassment due to power disparity. While corporate leaders take more action than subordinates, they often show less empathy.

Inequality of power between genders in the workplace sets the scene for illegal behavior toward the less powerful victim — who is usually female. When power disparity exists between men and women in the workplace, harassment is higher. Where corporations make an effort to distribute power equitably between genders, harassment often declines.

What if no one else notices the harassment?

Both genders are vulnerable to inappropriate behavior. Harassment can be overt or subtle. In either case, it is important to step forward and shed light on a personally damaging, illegal work environment. A good advocate knows the best way to approach these issues and will work with victims without pushing their comfort boundaries.

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