In American society, significant social progress has occurred for women over the years; however, there are barriers that remain before attaining true equality. Although women have made great strides in establishing a role of importance and power in the workplace, there is still a working environment that is governed by masculine qualities. The barriers that currently exist are more subtle and difficult to overcome because the popular perception is that women have conquered all of the obstacles and now have the same opportunities as men in the workplace. The truth of the matter is that women are still faced with challenges revolving around gender, such as the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, sexism, and sexual harassment. Each of these contributes to a hierarchical struggle between men and women in the workplace.
The issues of sexism and sexual harassment counteract the advances that have been made in breaking down equality barriers in the workplace. Women are commonly seen as submissive creatures that are incapable of carrying out proper decision-making tasks. This attitude, which can be referred to as “benevolent sexism,” holds the notion that women must be cared for and protected, and has elicited controversial issues within the workplace (Rubin, 2008, pp. 7). Stemming from this seemingly obedient nature of women is the issue of sexual harassment, which is a form of unwanted social-sexual behavior. This type of behavior is non-work-related and consists of an, “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment” (www.equalrights.org). Analyses have suggested that “over half of all employees have received some kind of sexual overture from a co-worker of the other gender.” Additionally, “about 10 percent of all women have actually quit a job because of sexual harassment” (University, p. 350).
Sexual harassment claims are a very serious matter and should be handled appropriately by the accuser, the accused, and those involved in human relations within the organization. However, it is not unusual for a sexual harassment allegation made by a woman to be easily discarded as a mere endeavor to seek public sympathy. Sexual harassment claims have also been written off as an overreaction on the victim’s part, and consequently devalued. Commonly, sexual harassment charges are dismissed as a strategy to hurt the reputation of the alleged perpetrator. Regardless of the intentions of the accuser, it is imperative that all avenues to address the issue are considered, as the allegation might contain some quantity of truth. In the case of Antoinette Mayer, one must consider the underlying consequences that inequality in the workplace has created, and attempt to remedy the situation fairly.
Antoinette Mayer is a senior software engineer at DigiSys. DigiSys is a multimillion dollar technology company that is comprised of several retired military officers in senior management positions. One evening, Mayer was leaving her office at Digisys and was approached by her superior, Jay Strong. Since it was after business hours, Strong offered to walk Mayer to her car. As they walked, Strong guided their conversation toward more personal matters, even inquiring about Mayer’s newlywed status. On the surface, it seemed innocent; however Mayer felt that the personal remarks were inappropriate and seemingly flirtatious. Mayer wasted no time saying goodbye, thinking she made her discomfort clear.
Although Mayer didn’t let her discomfort with the situation affect her work, she couldn’t help but question Strong’s intentions. She wanted to resolve her feelings by confronting Strong; however, he was out of town for a few days which prevented her from doing so. Upon his return, Mayer sensed that Strong’s demeanor had significantly changed since prior to their walk. He was more