Congratulations on your promotion! It comes with a side of sexual harassment. And no, taking a post abroad won’t help.
This it the finding of a surprising workplace study across Japan, Sweden, and the U.S., showing that women in supervisory positions experience much more sexual harassment than other female employees. “When you think about it, a supervisor is exposed to new groups of potential perpetrators. She can be harassed both from her subordinates and from higher-level management within the company,” says coauthor Johanna Rickne, a professor of economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at Stockholm University. In other words, women have it coming at them from all sides.
Researchers at SOFI surveyed 26,828 women to find that female supervisors experience 30-100% more harassment, and that low-level leaders receive the brunt of it, though women in top roles still receive more than rank-and-file employees. This was surprising to the researchers, who expected to see endemic harassment of low-ranking employees. Instead, they found that harassment levels increase when subordinates are mostly male.
Women’s perches in upper management are perilous: When reporting the behavior, “supervisors face more professional and social retaliation. We conclude that sexual harassment is a workplace hazard that raises the costs for women to pursue leadership ambitions and, in turn, reinforces gender gaps in income, status and voice,” write the researchers.
Why is this happening? Though sexual harassment can be fueled by lust, it can also be about equalizing status. Much, note the researchers, appears to stem from jealousy.