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NCBI Bookshelf. This chapter reviews the information gathered through decades of sexual harassment research. It provides definitions of key terms that will be used throughout the report, establishing a common framework from the research literature and the law for discussing these issues. In reviewing what sexual harassment research has learned over time, the chapter also examines the research methods for studying sexual harassment and the appropriate methods for conducting this research in a reliable way.

The chapter provides information on the prevalence of sexual harassment and common characteristics of how sexual harassment is perpetrated and experienced across lines of industry, occupation, and social class. It concludes with common characteristics of environments where sexual harassment is more likely to occur. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment was first recognized in cases in which women lost their jobs because they rejected sexual overtures from their employers e. Costle 1. Soon it was recognized in employment law that pervasive sexist behavior from coworkers can create odious conditions of employment—what became known as a hostile work environment —and also constitute illegal discrimination Farley ; MacKinnon ; Williams v. Saxbe 2.

These two basic forms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment, were summarized in guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in USEEOC Hostile work or educational environments can be created by behaviors such as addressing women in crude or objectifying terms, posting pornographic images in the office, and by making demeaning or derogatory statements about women, such as telling anti-female jokes.

Hostile environment harassment also encompasses unwanted sexual overtures such as exposing one's genitals, stroking and kissing someone, and pressuring a person for dates even if no quid pro quo is involved Bundy v. Jackson ; 3 Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson 4. An important distinction between quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment is that the former usually involves a one-on-one relationship in which the perpetrator has control of employment- or educational-related rewards or punishments over the target.

In contrast, the latter can involve many perpetrators and many targets. In the hostile environment form of sexual harassment, coworkers often exhibit a pattern of hostile sexist behavior toward multiple targets over an extended period of time Holland and Cortina For hostile sex-related or gender-related behavior to be considered illegal sexual harassment, it must be pervasive or severe enough to be judged as having had a negative impact upon the work or educational environment.

Therefore, isolated or single instances of such behavior typically qualify only when they are judged to be sufficiently severe. Legal scholars and judges continue to use the two subtype definitions of quid pro quo and hostile environment to define sexual harassment. Illegal sexual harassment falls under the umbrella of a more comprehensive category, discriminatory behavior. Illegal discrimination can occur on the basis of any legally protected category: race, ethnicity, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity, marital status, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, genetic information, physical or mental disabilities, veteran status, prior conviction of a crime, gender identity or expression, or membership in other protected classes set forth in state or federal law.

Regarding sexual harassment, the focus of this report, this includes gender harassment , a term deed to emphasize that harmful or illegal sexual harassment does not have to be about sexual activity USEEOC n. Sexual harassment constitutes discrimination because it is harmful and it is based on gender—it is not necessarily motivated by sexual desire nor does it need to involve sexual activity. Both legal doctrine and social science research recognize gender as encompassing both one's biological sex and gender-based stereotypes and expectations, such as heterosexuality and proper performance of gender roles.

Sexual harassment in the form of gender harassment can be based on the violation of cultural gender stereotypes. While a woman may be gender harassed for taking a job traditionally held by a man or in a traditionally male field. Gender harassment in such a situation might consist of actions to sabotage the woman's tools, machinery, or equipment, or telling the woman she is not smart enough for scientific work. Subsequent sections of this report discuss gender harassment in greater detail. Psychologists who study gender-related behavior have developed more nuanced terms to describe sexual harassment in order to more precisely measure and for the behaviors that constitute sexual harassment and to describe how targets experience those behaviors.

A three-part classification system divides sexual harassment into distinct but related : sexual coercion , unwanted sexual attention , and gender harassment see Figure ; Fitzgerald et al. While sexual coercion is by definition quid pro quo sexual harassment, more Sexual coercion entails sexual advances, and makes the conditions of employment or education, for students contingent upon sexual cooperation. Unwanted sexual attention also entails sexual advances, but it does not add professional rewards or threats to force compliance.

In this category are expressions of romantic or sexual interest that are unwelcome, unreciprocated, and offensive to the target; examples include unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, and persistent requests for dates or sexual behavior despite discouragement, and can include assault Cortina, Koss, and Cook ; Fitzgerald, Gelfand, and Drasgow ; Fitzgerald, Swan, and Magley Gender harassment is by far the most common type of sexual harassment. Gender harassment is further defined as two types: sexist hostility and crude harassment.

Examples of the sexist hostility form of gender harassment for women include demeaning jokes or comments about women, comments that women do not belong in leadership positions or are not smart enough to succeed in a scientific career, and sabotaging women. The crude harassment form of gender harassment is defined as the use of sexually crude terms that denigrate people based on their gender e.

Both women and men can and do experience all three forms of sexual harassment, but some subgroups face higher rates than others. For example, women who are lesbian or bisexual Cortina et al. Interestingly, the motivation underlying sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention behaviors appears different from the motivation underlying gender harassment. Whereas the first two suggest sexual advances the goal being sexual exploitation of women , the third category is expressing hostility toward women the goals being insult, humiliation, or ostracism Holland and Cortina However, it is important to note that these come-on behaviors are not necessarily about attraction to women; more often than not, they are instead motivated by the desire to devalue women or punish those who violate gender norms Berdahl b ; Cortina and Berdahl Some researchers further define the verbal insults associated with gender harassment, along with accompanying nonverbal affronts, as microaggressions.

This term can also be broken down into three : microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations Sue et al. There is some concern that microaggression remains a poorly defined construct, with porous boundaries. Additionally, the use of the term micro is misleading, as it implies all these experiences are minor or imperceptible acts. Yet some microaggressions, such as referring to people by using offensive names, are obviously offensive and can be deeply damaging. Similarly the root word aggression is also misleading, as most experts reserve this term for behavior that carries intent to harm Lilienfeld For these reasons, our committee chose to focus on incivility , a term in greater use in the workplace aggression literature.

Lim and Cortina point out that if sexual harassment is tolerated in an organization or not seen as a deviant behavior, incidents of general incivility would be expected to be even less likely to receive attention from management. Based on these findings, it could be argued that generalized incivility should be a red flag for leadership or management in work and education environments, because when gender harassment occurs, it is virtually always in environments with high rates of uncivil conduct Cortina et al. For example, it can include pornography being displayed in a common area or sexually abusive language being used publicly in the work or education environment Parker Ambient unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion refer to observed instances of unwanted sexual pursuit, targeted at a fellow employee.

In other words, one need not be personally targeted to feel the effects of sexual harassment much like second-hand smoke. Despite refined definitions and terms to describe sexual harassment and gender discrimination, documenting the degree of these behaviors in work and education environments remains challenging. This is in part because individuals experiencing these behaviors rarely label them as such. Sexual harassment a form of discrimination is composed of three of behavior: 1 gender harassment verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of one gender , 2 unwanted sexual attention verbal or physical unwelcome sexual advances, which can include assault , and 3 sexual coercion when favorable professional or educational treatment is conditioned on sexual activity.

Harassing behavior can be either direct targeted at an individual or ambient a general level of sexual harassment in an environment. Box provides a quick review of the key terms introduced in this chapter. The goal of providing recommendations for preventing sexual harassment and mitigating its effects in academic science, engineering, and medicine requires evidence-based research.

Different studies have different strengths and weaknesses, and these should be kept in mind when reviewing their findings, particularly if leaders in academic institutions, legislators, and researchers hope to de meaningful and effective interventions and policies. The two most commonly used study methods are surveys and laboratory experiments.

Important findings have also emerged using in-depth interviews, case studies, sociolegal analyses, and other methods. When conducting or reviewing research examining sexual harassment, it is crucial that the methods used to conduct the research match the goals for the research. It is crucial to note that the prevalence of sexual harassment in a population is best estimated using representative surveys and not by relying on the invariably lower of official reports of sexual harassment made to an organization see the discussion in Chapter 4 about how rare it is for women to formally report their experience.

The next sections discuss these various research methods and the kind of information they provide. Surveys, containing well-validated instruments, can be useful in estimating the prevalence how common sexual harassment experiences or behaviors are among people in a given population and determining correlates, antecedents, outcomes, and factors that attenuate or amplify outcomes from sexual harassment.

For instance, they can assess links between harassment and different aspects of targets' well-being, targets' understanding of the resources available to them, and the strategies they use to cope. Basing a survey on a defined population accessible from a comprehensive list, or sample frame, can be helpful.

Sometimes, too, using multiple instruments and data sources can be a highly effective approach. Though surveys have often focused on the targets of sexually harassing behavior e. Conducting surveys on sexual harassment is challenging, but fortunately researchers have addressed many of these challenges.

Those wishing to conduct a survey on sexual harassment ought to follow the scientific methods described below and the ethical and safety guidelines for this type of research WHO Poorly conducting surveys on sexual harassment is unethical because responding to the survey could needlessly retraumatize the respondent. Additionally, the resulting inaccurate data from such a survey could be used to question the importance and legitimacy of such an important and sensitive topic WHO An initial challenge in conducting survey research on sexual harassment is that many women are not likely to label their experiences as sexual harassment.

This illustrates what other research has shown: that in both the law and the lay public, the dominant understandings of sexual harassment overemphasize two forms of sexual harassment, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, while downplaying the third most common type—gender harassment see Figure ; Leskinen, Cortina, and Kabat ; Schultz Regardless of whether women self-label their experiences as sexual harassment or not, they all have similar negative psychological and professional outcomes Magley, Hulin, et al.

The public consciousness of sexual harassment and specific sexually harassing behaviors. This labeling issue was first identified in research on rape and sexual violence. Subsequent studies of sexual harassment found similar Ilies et al. With extensive psychometric evidence supporting it, the SEQ has become the gold standard in the assessment of sexual harassment experiences in both work and school settings Cortina and Berdahl Unfortunately, some recent studies attempting to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment have not followed this good practice and are thus likely to have low prevalence rates, be missing data about those who have experienced gender harassment, and as a result be unreliable for evaluating the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Another hurdle faced by surveys on sexual harassment is that women who have experienced sexual harassment may be reluctant to respond to a survey on the topic or to admit being a target or victim because sexual harassment can be stigmatizing, humiliating, and traumatizing Greco, O'Boyle, and Walter ; Bumiller , To encourage open self-reports, it is important that survey responses are confidential, if not anonymous, and to reassure survey participants that this is the case.

Additionally, to help avoid a nonresponse bias i. In a meta-analytic review of the incidence of sexual harassment in the United States, Ilies and colleagues found that directly asking respondents whether they had experienced sexual harassment as opposed to using questionnaires that list behaviors that constitute sexual harassment led to substantially lower estimates of sexual harassment incidence. When determining prevalence estimates, attention must be given to minimizing nonresponse biases in the survey sample.

Nonresponse biases include attitudes and other characteristics that disincline people from survey participation Krosnick et al. A reluctance to answer questions about sexually harassing experiences could represent a nonresponse bias. While low response rates are not synonymous with low levels of nonresponse bias, generally low response rates should be interpreted with caution and will raise limitations on what conclusions can be drawn because of the representativeness of the survey sample Dillman, Smyth, and Christian ; Ilies et al. Just as it is important to be cautious about deriving prevalence estimates from samples with lower response rates, researchers and leaders in academic institutions must also be judicious when deriving such estimates from nonprobability samples see Yeager, Krosnick, and Javitz [] for a discussion of the problems with opt-in internet surveys.

A challenge for any survey that is particularly important for sexual harassment surveys is their ability to gather information about nonmajority members of a given workplace or campus. Often women of color and sexual- and gender-minority women have been underrepresented among survey respondents, resulting in unreliable prevalence rates for these specific populations. Recent research is beginning to address this by looking at sexual harassment through the lens of intersectionality and by working to oversample these underrepresented populations when conducting surveys. Convenience sampling in which participants are recruited from social media or specialized groups with a specific target group in mind and snowball sampling recruiting additional subjects by asking participants who else they know in their networks who would also know about the topic are useful means of recruiting hard-to-reach or underrepresented populations e.

These studies can yield critical insights, even though the samples cannot be considered representative of a particular population. A good example of this approach is the recent study about the experiences of women of color in the fields of astronomy and planetary science, identified via convenience sampling.

The researchers found that women of color were more likely to report hearing sexist remarks from supervisors or peers in the workplace than did white women, white men, or men of color. Women of color were also more likely to feel unsafe at work because of their gender Clancy et al. This study shows how survey data can be used to test relationships among important variables such as race, gender, sexual harassment, and sense of safety, yielding conclusions about who is most likely to be targeted for sexually harassing behaviors, and with what effects.

When determining and comparing prevalence rates, it is important to distinguish the prevalence rates for women separate from men and not to rely on a combined prevalence for both genders. Relying on combined rates will result in a lower rate because women are much more likely to experience sexual harassment than men USMSPB ; Magley, Waldo, et al.

Another methodological feature to be particularly attentive to when estimating and comparing prevalence rates is the time period respondents are asked about. In some studies, no time limit is given, while others may limit it to the last 12 or 24 months. The longer the time period, the more likely the rates will be skewed and not assess current incidence. Longer time periods can result in higher incidence rates because more time means more women are likely to have experienced such behavior.

However, after long enough periods, memory deterioration sets in, leaving behind only those sexual harassment experiences that left a lasting memory, and leaving out everyday sexist comments or ambient harassment. Additionally, longer time periods can also introduce the risk that the incident could have occurred at a past environment, not the current one under investigation. Lastly, a key obstacle to obtaining accurate prevalence s across academia and between fields or workplaces is the of surveys available that do not always use a standardized method for measuring or defining sexual harassment.

Unfortunately, when institutions make their decisions about which survey or questions to use, they often do not seem to be aware of good practices in sexual harassment research or to have consulted with a sexual harassment researcher, because different methodologies and measurement approaches have been used Wood et al. The largest concern when comparing prevalence rates is differences in how sexual harassment is defined in the survey and during the analysis of the responses.

In other words, the direct query method gives an estimate of prevalence based on the respondent's perception, while the behavioral experiences method estimates the extent to which potentially harassing incidents happen in an organization.

This research also demonstrates that these differences were not due to differences in work environments or to sampling method Ilies et al. To try to present the most accurate information on the prevalence of sexual harassment, the report references surveys that follow good practices in both sexual harassment research and survey research and that clearly identify differences in time period and definitions.

Another way that information has been gathered about sexual harassment has been through laboratory experiments, in which researchers examine the occurrence of sexually harassing behaviors by manipulating variables under controlled conditions. The advantage of this approach is that researchers can directly observe sexually harassing behavior. This approach, however, does not provide information on the prevalence of sexual harassment. Laboratory experiments can help uncover situational factors that encourage or discourage potential perpetrators from engaging in sexually harassing behavior.

For instance, experiments show that sexual harassment is less likely to occur if those behaviors are not accepted by authority figures Pryor, LaVite, and Stoller Another experiment found that men exposed to sexist television portrayals of women were more likely to send sexist jokes to women in an online interaction Galdi, Maass, and Cadinu Laboratory experiments can also provide a snapshot of how women might respond in a sexually harassing situation.

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