Black Women Are More Likely To Be Sexually Harassed At Work, Study Finds

They’re also more likely to report it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

| June 25 2019,

2:35 pm

New research determined Black women are more likely than white women to experience workplace sexual harassment.

Dan Cassino of Fairleigh Dickinson University and Yasemin Besen-Cassino of Montclair State University authored a new study about the experiences of women in the workplace, according to Pacific Standard Magazine. The good news is sexual harassment reports have declined.

"In 1997, the first year that the United States federal EEOC began releasing detailed data on reported complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace, it logged 16,000 such reports," the pair wrote.

"In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, that figure had fallen to 9,600—a decline of more than 40 percent over 20 years."

However, the researchers noticed a troubling trend when they incorporated race.

"The likelihood that an individual white woman would report sexual harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dropped by more than 70 percent between 1996 and 2016," reads the report.

"The rate for African-American women dropped by only 38 percent."

The researchers attribute the difference to the perceived powerlessness of Black women.

"Over the past 20 years, we've made great strides in reducing sexual harassment in the workplace, but those benefits have all gone to white women, and mostly to young white women," Cassino said in a press release. "It seems as though men have gotten more careful about who they're harassing and have been targeting women of color, who may be less likely to report the harassment."

Harassing women of color allows men to exert their power without experiencing as many repercussions.

"Sexual harassment in the workplace is an expression of power—a way for men to assert their dominance," the authors wrote. “The shift from sexual harassment of white women to African-American women indicates that harassers are conscious of power relationships and choose to target more vulnerable women in their workplaces."

The unemployment rate is another factor. Men are more likely to harass women when the unemployment rate is on the rise.

"A higher unemployment rate in one month leads to an increase in the number of reported harassment cases the following month," the researchers determined. "About one-third of the change in workplace sexual harassment reported to the EEOC can be attributed to changes in the national unemployment rate the previous month," the report continued.

These stats come six months after the Center of Employment Equity released their study about sexual harassment. The study found Black women made 27% of sexual harassment reports to EEOC between 2012 and 2016, according to The Crime Report. Black women make up only 7% of the workforce. They also determined most people who file reports experience retaliation from their employers, with 64% losing their jobs. Most victims, 99.8%, never file reports.

“Sexual harassment remains a persistent and serious threat to women and men in American workplaces,” the study explained. “While the vast majority of those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace never report this harassment internally nor file a formal discrimination charge, those who do are typically confronted by harsh outcomes.”




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