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Dissertation

Factors that influence reporting of sexual harassment in the workplace

12 December 1994

Abstract

Women who have been sexually harassed in the workplace have generally been reluctant to report this behavior. The discrepancy between the level of occurrence of sexual harassment and the reporting of sexual harassment has frequently been cited in the literature. However, little research has focused specifically on factors that might influence reporting sexual harassment. The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of harassment severity, perceived outcomes, perceived expectations of others, and self-perception as a victim on the likelihood of reporting. The subjects were nonexempt female employees in predominantly female job categories at a small town university. They responded to a self-administered questionnaire designed by the researcher. Correlation coefficients were calculated for all hypotheses except one, for which repeated measures analysis of variance and paired i-tests were conducted. Stepwise multiple regression was conducted to determine the variables that best predicted the likelihood of reporting. Subjects were significantly more likely to report sexual harassment if they thought that their report would be believed, if they thought no one would retaliate against them, if they thought they would feel safe at work after reporting, and if they believed reporting would stop the behavior. Subjects were significantly more likely to report harassment if they believed their supervisor, co-workers, spouse/partner, and close friends and family would want them to report. Subjects were significantly more likely to report if they agreed that reporting made them feel they had some power to stop the behavior. Subjects were also significantly more likely to report harassment if the harassment was more severe, but not under all conditions. The best predictors of likelihood of reporting were the perceived expectation that one's spouse/partner would want one to report, the expectation that one's close friends and family would want one to report, and the self-perception that one has some power to stop the harassment by reporting. The results of this study suggest that likelihood of reporting is not only a function of individual psychological factors but also a function of organizational and cultural expectations. Suggestions for further research into ways to increase reporting and other assertive responses to sexual harassment were presented.


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