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Gender at Work

A Social Psychological Perspective


Melanie C. Steffens and Ma. Àngels Viladot

While many women receive equal education, such equality is nowhere in sight when it comes to women’s and men’s career success: men still earn significantly more than women and are more likely to be promoted. In this book, the authors offer a state of the art review of applied social-psychological research on gender at work, shedding light on all the different ways that work-related perceptions, attributions, outcomes, and the like differ for women and men. Focusing on domains (e.g., engineering) and positions (e.g., leadership) that are marked by women’s underrepresentation, the first part of the book looks at gender at work in terms of stereotypes, attitudes, and social roles, including parenthood, while the second part takes a social identity and communication perspective, exploring the situations in which men and women interact at work. Many chapters focus on applied questions, such as career choice, effects of role models, and sexual harassment at work. Theories and findings are applied to these topics, with conclusions and recommendations drawn throughout the book.
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Chapter 18. Interactions Between Gender and Power: Sexual Harassment


← 194 | 195 → ·18·

Before addressing the issue of sexual harassment, we will place it in its appropriate framework.

Power and the way it is conceived and used through interpersonal communication provides the framework within which is located the destructive phenomenon of sexual harassment in the workplace. We affirm that sexual harassment would not exist if there wasn’t inequality—favoring men—between genders regarding social vitality and power. The link between gender and sexual harassment begins with the recognition of what Fiske (2000) called power asymmetries.

Giles and others in the 1970s formulated a theoretical base for the analysis of the vitality (power) of social groups (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity; Esteban-Guitart, Viladot, & Giles, 2014; Giles & Viladot, 1994; Viladot & Esteban-Guitart, 2011; Viladot, Esteban-Guitart, Nadal, & Giles, 2007; Viladot, Giles, Bolaños, & Esteban-Guitart, 2013; Viladot, Giles, Gasiorek, & Esteban-Guitart, 2012).

Status and institutional support are the two causal factors for measuring gender vitality. We can certainly say that women as a gender group have less social vitality (less social power) than men as a gender group. That is, social, economic, language, and sociohistorical status seem to favor male vitality. ← 195 | 196 → Men have more rights and privileges. They exhibit their privileges and power and produce them in every communication situation (Kabat-Farr & Cortina, 2014; see also Collins & Clément, 2012). Some men believe they have the right to exercise their power and force women to have sex. This is a...

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