ILR School Research Suggests the Impact of Industry Norms on Perceptions of Sexual Harassment

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Cornell Chronicle's "When Immersed in Sexual Harassment, Workers Can’t Identify it" highlights research by ILR's PhD candidate Phoebe Strom, HR Studies Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Chris Collins and ILR Senior Associate Dean for Outreach and Professor of Labor Relations, Law and History Ariel Avgar.  

“It’s very likely an individual’s understanding of what ‘counts’ as sexual harassment is shaped by their workplace experiences,” said Ph.D. candidate Phoebe Strom, M.S. ’18, lead author of the new study. “The fact that researchers have largely taken the workplace out of the equation and said the context doesn’t matter is just astonishing to me. The results of our study clearly show this is a huge oversight.”

In the paper, “Drawing the Line: How the Workplace Shapes the Naming of Sexual Harassment,” forthcoming in Personnel Psychology, Strom and her colleagues conclude that employees who work in industries that experience a large amount of sexual harassment are far less likely to identify clear violations. And these workers may carry their increased tolerance for inappropriate behavior throughout their careers.

Strom’s research, which she undertook with ILR School colleagues Chris Collins, associate professor of human resource studies; Ariel Avgar, professor of labor relations, law and history; and Katherine Ryan ’20, examines if working in an industry with a high level of sexual harassment helps or hinders an individual’s ability to recognize inappropriate behavior. The researchers also assessed the role human resources policies and practices play in changing industry norms and shifting individual worker’s opinions on sexual harassment.

Take a look at the CAHRS ResearchBrief, which summarizing these findings.