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  • Middle-age women bosses are more at risk of harassment

    Author: AAP

If you are a woman aged between 30 to 44 years and in a position of authority at work then you are more likely to be sexually harassed, a study has found.

The image of the sleazy male boss sexually harassing his female and much younger secretary doesn't reflect changing workplace realities.

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In fact, middle-age women bosses are just as likely, if not more, to be victims of sexual harassment, a new study of the Australian public service has found.

The study of more than 100,000 employees conducted by the University of Antwerp in Belgium found that while for men, being the boss decreases their chances of being sexually harassed, the picture for women was much less clear.

Women were far more likely to be sexually harassed in general than men and their chances of being harassed did not decrease as they came into positions of power.


It was also found women with supervisory authority between 30 and 44 years of age were more likely to be harassed compared to their counterparts with such authority.

The results, published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration, indicate a strong link between gender, workplace authority, and sexual harassment exists, but also that this relationship is greatly influenced by age, the study's authors say.

Sexual harassment is defined by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated, or intimidated.

Despite being outlawed for over 25 years, sexual harassment in the workplace remains a concern.

Nearly one in five complaints received by the AHRC under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 before 2014 were related to sexual harassment.

With more women climbing the career ladder and breaking the glass ceiling, it appears the organisational and legal responses to sexual harassment have not kept pace with this evolution.

"The reality proves to be far more complex and it is necessary for organisational policies and training to reflect the diversity of harassment experiences," say the authors.

They say women who fall into this demographic and have been sexually harassed at work should be provided with avenues to come forward without undermining their own authority.


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