The 2016 presidential election, whatever else its effects may be, is providing the useful service of highlighting the sexual harassment that many professional women face. My new book on female corporate leaders includes a close look at sexual harassment, a topic that few have focused on until recently. In fact, long before Trump’s alleged groping of women came to dominate the national conversation, my Millennial daughter saw an early version of the book’s cover that listed harassment among its topics and seemed perplexed. Sexual harassment isn’t a hot issue for contemporary women, she suggested.
Thanks to this election and the Roger Ailes allegations of this summer, that may be changing. But it’s easy to focus on the harassment itself and miss a much larger problem: Men continue to run corporate America. Though women have advanced far, they have done so at a pace far slower than most anticipated; very few of the biggest businesses are commanded by women. In workplaces largely led by men, sexual harassment remains pervasive up and down the corporate hierarchy. It is not likely to disappear until more women move into the management suite.
Nationwide, one in four women has experienced sexual harassment on the job, according to a 2011 poll by Langer Research Associates. Advertising and tech-industry surveys conducted since 2015 produced comparable results. The primary victims? Women who display assertive, dominant, and independent personalities in male-dominated organizations, a 2007 academic study found.