Especially in the era of #metoo, the image of sexual harassers is typically that of an older male boss taking advantage of a subordinate, abusing his power for sexual rewards. But men are not the only ones who engage in sexual harassment. The University of Colorado at Boulder recently put on leave and banned from campus a female professor who is accused of pressuring students to participate in sexually inappropriate conduct and communications.
Not the only one
The Colorado professor is not the only female professor to face such charges, even this year. Earlier this summer a female New York University professor was suspended without pay for a year after sexually harassing an advisee. In both cases, the professors sent inappropriate messages to the targets of their abuse and cultivated ongoing communications that crossed boundaries and opened the door to escalated abuse.
Abuse transcends gender
Sexual harassment is not about sex, but about power, and the abuse of it. And anyone can abuse their power, regardless of gender. The fact that more men in this country remain in positions of power in the workplace than women makes it more likely that a man would be the harasser, but it certainly does not rule out the possibility that a woman could engage in that conduct, too, as the above examples illustrate.
Nobody deserves to be harassed in the workplace. Harassment can lead to poor performance, job loss and poor morale. Those who report are often subject to retaliation that can have serious and long-lasting career and financial repercussions. While seeking legal action for sexual harassment can be a daunting prospect, those who experience this behavior do not deserve to suffer the consequences for years to come. Legal action can be an effective way to obtain some measure of justice.