The important conversation that has been taking place over the past six months in the US and around the world about sexual harassment in the workplace has focused mainly on the challenges women face in male-dominated industries where men in power feel free to take advantage of their female employees. Indeed, as the #MeToo campaign has highlighted, women experience sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace at alarming rates, while many more are treated as inferior to their male colleagues in other, less overt ways.
The victims of sexual harassment are by no means exclusively women, however. Marketplace reports on a new survey it conducted in partnership with Edison Research in which 14 percent of men said they had personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Also, 17 percent of all sexual harassment allegations filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017 were filed by men.
If sexual harassment of men is less often discussed than that of women, that may be because men are less likely to report when they have been sexually harassed. “For men,” Marketplace’s Peter Balonon-Rosen and Kimberly Adams write, “stigma attached to sexual harassment can be a barrier to reporting it”:
“The biggest factor is that men are embarrassed,” said Todd Harrison, a partner at a California law-firm that specializes in employment law and sexual harassment cases. “They have pride that gets in the way, they don’t want to complain about it, especially to their male co-workers.” …
Conventional wisdom holds that work-life balance is somewhat more important to female employees than it is to their male colleagues, especially after they have children and have to juggle work and family responsibilities. Research also backs up this perception: A recent survey of independent contractors found that women were attracted to self-employment by the flexibility it offered to a greater extent than men. Our research at CEB (now Gartner) has also found that while both men and women value work-life balance, women are slightly more likely than men to identify it as a main factor attracting them to an employer. The absence of policies supporting work-life balance drives working parents of both genders to leave their employers, but this is even more true for moms than for dads.
However, a study just published in the Journal of Applied Psychology calls this piece of conventional wisdom into question, finding that men and women are about equally likely to experience work-family conflict—but women are much more likely than men to voice these concerns. Mark Eltringham at Workplace Insight talks to the lead author of the paper about why this is so:
Researchers spent several years examining the findings from more than 350 studies conducted over three decades that included more than 250,000 participants from across the world. The results were surprising, said lead researcher Kristen Shockley, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. …
“We essentially found very little evidence of differences between women and men as far as the level of work-family conflict they report,” she said. “This is quite contrary to the common public perception. The way this issue is presented in the media frames the way we think about it, and it creates a perpetual cycle. Women hear that other women are struggling with this issue, so they expect they will experience greater work-family conflict. There also is some socialisation for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men.”
On the other side of the equation, men still experience stigma for wanting to involve themselves more actively in their family life, and fear that it will harm perceptions of their masculinity or dedication to their jobs. The study did find some minor differences among certain subgroups of men and women in terms of how much work-family conflict they experienced, but Shockley said none of these differences were especially significant.
A recent study investigates the pressure gay men feel to manage their self-expression at work in an effort to avoid appearing “too gay”:
Travis Dean Speice, a new sociology doctoral graduate at the University of Cincinnati, says his research indicates that gay men often feel they have to change certain distinct gestures and body language behaviors in order to avoid potential negative consequences from co-workers.…
Speice explains these strategies for avoiding scrutiny using a concept he termed “hegemonic sexuality,” a tool he uses to understand how gay men are positioned hierarchically within society. The researcher says some men are labeled as “too gay,” and respondents associate that label with various speech patterns, body language and clothing choices that do not fit into an idealized form of hegemonic masculinity, or other commonly known masculine behaviors.
Instead, these characteristics often follow common stereotypes of gay men. Men then have the choice to perform masculinity and gayness in any number of ways, with some men attempting to perform a more traditional masculine version of themselves at work. “This happens when they don’t feel safe being themselves around certain supervisors or co-workers,” says Speice.
While the US is arguably much more gay-friendly today than it was even a few years ago, many LGBT Americans live in states where it is legal to discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation, so it is no surprise that many gay employees feel a need to “pass” at work or to remain closeted. At the Huffington Post back in June, Center for Talent Innovation CEO Sylvia Ann Hewlett highlighted a study showing that nearly half of LGBT employees in the US keep their sexuality hidden from their colleagues—while in some other countries, that percentage is much higher: