So here’s the good news: after working your butt off to prove your worth, you’ve finally earned that promotion you’ve been working for, and you have spacious (or at least more spacious than your cramped cubicle) new office with a shiny plaque that has your name embossed over the title of manager or supervisor. And then comes the bad: the guys you used to pal around with after office hours don’t want to share a lunch table with you at the pantry anymore, you’ve overheard ribald jokes being made at your expense, and there are rumors that some of your colleagues don’t believe you deserve the position you’ve been given.

Even worse news is that you aren’t the only female supervisor or manager in this predicament. According to research by sociologists from the University of Maine and the University of Minnesota, women who gain a certain level of power from professional advancement may endure more sexual harassment from coworkers and subordinates than those in lower positions, reports.

During the course of their research, the team found that 58 percent of female supervisors in male-dominated workplaces may expect harassment; the same is true of 42 percent of female supervisors in predominantly female workplaces. Female supervisors also reported more varied forms of sexual harassment, the most common of which were staring, leering, and unwelcome touches.

But what makes women targets for this kind of treatment? According to the researchers, “Sexual harassment can serve as an equalizer against women in power, motivated more by control and domination than by sexual desire.”

In an article published in the journal American Sociological Review, the researchers wrote, “Women supervisors who hold authority over some men directly challenge the presumptive superiority of men. When women are able to crack the glass ceiling and attain leadership positions, stereotypical gender beliefs about their ‘natural’ abilities continue to shape perceptions of their job performance.”

This is not to say, of course, that you shouldn’t be ambitious or try for a leadership position. Far from it. But like it or not, gender bias in the workplace still does exist, and it makes women who earn top positions and prove they deserve and can hold them all the more admirable. But if you’ve set your sights on the top of the career ladder, it helps to be aware of the challenges you might face and plan for them. Knowing how to appropriately respond to harassment in the workplace will go a long way toward showing your professionalism and making sure you maintain control of the situation.

(Photo by Victor1558 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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