Why do educated men harass female colleagues at the workplace? Psyche of the Sexual Harasser

Posted by July 13, 2016

Does sexual harassment have anything to do with the education level of either the perpetrator or the victim? Does being a CEO of a company or a school dropout make them more or less prone to being a harasser? Is it even right to compare education with harassment?

Studies were done by the American Psychological Association and Fortis Healthcare, which state that sexual harassment has nothing to do with sexual desire. It is more to do with power and the abuse of that power and authority. Sexual harassment is a manifestation of power play between the two sexes.

But where does this power come from? Power can come in different forms €" being in a position to affect the promotions, salary, work, etc. of a woman employee, age, experience, physical size, social or economic status, etc. It is not so much the power but the ability to abuse it by suppressing the victim, which creates the imbalance.

Another basis of power is society. Any society which objectifies women or puts them in an inferior or subordinate position to men gives them power over women. It is also a society which defines the 'proper role' of a man and a woman. A woman breaking out of that 'predefined' role is seen as a rebel and thus needs to be put in her 'proper place.'

Another study done by University of Missouri-Columbia says the continued problem of sexual harassment lies in the fact how men and women define 'power.' For men, power comes from formal authority whereas, for women, anyone who can 'harm' them in any way is in a position of power. Thus, a 'harmless flirtatious' comment by a male co-worker can be construed as sexual harassment by a female.

In such a complex range of definitions and possible misunderstandings, how do you differentiate between an expression of interest and sexual harassment? The simplest way is going back to the definition €" sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome, unwanted sexual advance which makes the woman uncomfortable, makes the work environment feel hostile and negatively affects her health and work. Sexual harassment is not meant to woo women; it is meant to coerce them.

It is thus important to understand the psyche of the harasser, which goes beyond his education. It is his perceptions, beliefs and understanding of the 'role of a woman' which play a bigger part in his being a perpetrator.

In order to prevent the occurrences of sexual harassment at the workplace, training and Sensitisation of employees €" whether male or female, becomes imperative. A formal training session on sexual harassment can clear misconceptions in an organised manner in the shortest time possible. At Complykaro, we provide tailored training programs based on the needs of the organisation to sensitise its employees and explain the safeguards enshrined in the law.

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