Study: Black women more likely to experience sexual harassment at work

Shot of an attractive young businesswoman using a digital tablet at work with colleagues in the background

A new study reveals that Black women are experiencing higher rates of sexual harassment violations in the workplace, even though the overall number of reported incidents are on the decline.

The study, titled Race, Threat and Workplace Sexual Harassment: The Dynamics of Harassment in the US, 1997‐2016, shows that Black women are more likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace than their white peers, and also reveals that male predators in the workplace tend to prey on women whom they perceive to be less powerful and less likely to file a harassment complaint.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is an expression of power—a way for men to assert their dominance,” the author’s conclude. “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 report’s co-authors, Dan Cassino of Fairleigh Dickinson University and Yasemin Besen-Cassino of Montclair State University, used research from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over a 21-year period to formulate their results.

“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,” the study states. “The rate for African-American women dropped by only 38 percent.”

“In 1996, African-American women were 1.7 times as likely as white women to report sexual harassment to the EEOC. In 2016, they were 3.8 times more likely to do so.”

Researchers also assert a startling correlation between the national unemployment rate and incidents of sexual harassment at work.

“When the unemployment rate goes up, producing greater social strain and a need to assert dominance, reported sexual harassment goes up as well,” the author’s write.

Although the study points out some harrowing details, it fully supports the long history of sexual violence and sexualization that Black women and girls have been subject to in America which directly correlates to how Black women are perceived and treated in schools and workplace environments.