The media has been full of sexual harassment claims, admissions, and recriminations recently. Most have been in the realms of entertainment, broadcasting, and government. A sprinkling of claims has also surfaced in the hospitality, manufacturing, arts, and high-tech venues. But, most have one element in common, that being power. The alleged perpetrator of the harassment has the power to penalize the subject if there is no cooperation or if the subject makes a public or legal complaint.
If one were to believe the media reports it would seem that males are the culprits and females the victims, but that isn’t always the case. A recent study showed that 78% of the cases were males harassing females. However, female vs. female occurred in 6% of the cases, female vs. male in 5% and male vs. male in 11%.
Having said all that the question still remains as to will it change? After all, it really isn’t something new in human relationships. One of the problems is defining just where is that line that one person shouldn’t step over in dealing with another? That invisible line seems to have very fluid definitions that vary by gender and can even change from one relationship to another. What a female may regard as sexual harassment by one male, may not be the same as another. Likewise, an action by a male toward another male may be viewed by both as just a friendly or routine action. However, when the male does that with a female she may view it as threatening, or a prelude to worst actions to follow. Example: The boss puts his hand on a male subordinates shoulder when he compliments him on a job well done. The same action with a female can be seen as a totally different message.
So, will it change? “Me Too” notwithstanding I doubt it. So long as a person has power over another there is the likelihood that some percentage of those with power will abuse it, or at least be seen to be abusing it. That abuse is almost a certainty so long as there is no oversight. If the supervisor has no HR to monitor his/her actions or the CEO is Chairman of the Board of DIrectors, or the perpetrator is the head of HR then the watchdog can become the problem.
It is my opinion that all the company policies, edicts, and pronouncements will do little to change human nature. It is all window dressing because people think they should do something to either change it or at least appear to be making an effort to change it.
Like all prior media frenzies, this one will eventually pass into obscurity and life will go on and the media will find a new and latest feeding trough.
There is always some pushback in a situation such as this. As one lady said to me recently, “Some of these women coming forward after 30-40 years are really just saying, ‘See someone once found me attractive enough to hit on me’.”