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Female Supervisors More Likely to Be Sexually Harassed
Date:8/12/2009

Women in lower-level positions weren't targeted nearly as often, study notes

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Surprising new research shows that female supervisors are more likely to be the targets of sexual harassment than women in lower-level positions.

Men who described themselves as having more feminine qualities or who were assumed by their co-workers to be gay were also among those most likely to be harassed, according to the study, which was scheduled to be presented this week at the American Sociological Association annual meeting, in San Francisco.

The findings call into question stereotypes about which women are most at risk of harassment, said study author Heather McLaughlin, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota.

When sexual harassment was first exposed as a workplace issue in the 1970s, the assumption was that women in lower positions, who were more economically vulnerable and had fewer options for walking away, were most at risk of being harassed.

"You assume people with less power are less likely to tell on people with more power, because they are more dependent on keeping the job," McLaughlin said. "But we found women who had more workplace power, who did supervise others, were more likely to be sexually harassed."

The study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is one of the largest and most detailed looks at who faces sexual harassment in the workplace.

Researchers used data on nearly 600 men and women aged 29 and 30 who took part in the 2003 and 2004 Youth Development Study, a prospective study of adolescents that began in 1988 when participants were in the ninth grade in St. Paul, Minn., public schools. The data also included in-depth interviews with 33 participants.

About 36 percent of men and women had experienced some form of sexual harassment in 2004, incl
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