HR professor


Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

We are accustomed to the fact that men and women work together in many professional places. In most developed and developing countries, women enjoy equal rights to work in organizations as do their male counterparts. We find highly successful women in politics, sports, defense, entertainment, software, and many other challenging offices.

Yet, we are plagued with gender problems everywhere. The reported number of cases on sexual harassment in the workplace is steadily increasing. Employers are increasingly opting for men over women for a variety of reasons. Men find fewer corporate obstacles, while women have to deal with gender based challenges. Often in a power conflict between a male and a female employee, the woman gets the underhand treatment. What are the inherent causes of gender bias within organizations?

To understand this, we must first analyze the contribution of each of the sexes in the workplace. In many companies, men and women enjoy similar entry level opportunities, pay packages and benefits. However, some progressive organizations offer differential employee benefits to men and women. That's not all. Companies even stipulate different career options for their male and female employees. Needless to say, the career path chalked out for women does not reach to the top.

It is often argued that organizations have some valid concerns when they hire women employees. Let us analyze each of the points from the organization's perspective.

The first stated argument is about women placing their personal lives over their professional ones. Women employees who decide to get married, move in with their partner or choose to look into their household matters, very often put their careers on a hold. Some also end up relocating to new places in order to adjust with their families. An organization goes through immense financial loss and disruption of work schedules can happen when a women employee chooses to quit for domestic reasons. Now multiply this situation for several women employees and you have a catastrophic problem at hand. In such situations, companies find it easier to depend on male employees, especially for critical functions. It is a well known fact that the attrition level of women employees is usually higher than that of the male employees. This clearly states that more women choose to quit their hi-flying careers midway and opt for domestic life.

The second reason about gender bias is related to sexual harassment at the workplace. Sexual abuse and harassment of women employees is far more than the reported numbers. As more and more cases of sexual harassment at the workplace come to light, managers are getting increasingly wary about hiring women employees. No company wants to be embroiled in sexual litigations.

The third reason cited is the case of women employees with children who require child care assistance in the form of day care or crèches for dependable services. True, there are several organizations that provide day care facilities to accommodate working mothers. These facilities are often added as a part of the employment package. But, with spiraling costs of production and low profit margins, often companies find it difficult to give in to this added cost of employment. In most cases, child care is usually considered the responsibility of women and hence she should provide for them.

Despite the odds, we have many success stories about women who made it to the top. Organizations that chalk out fair policies and create a healthy work environment for male and female employees can harness talent of every employee regardless of gender. Women employees can be encouraged to enhance productivity by giving them a secure work environment, flexible work schedules and adequate facilities to manage work as well as home. A sensitive approach is required from the management to deal with sensitive issues such as sexual harassment, working mothers and other gender related issues. There should be open communication channels for every employee to voice their concerns and grievances. A participative management can ensure that employees are treated more humanely and thereby create a stronger work ethos.

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