Allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the media, and on Capitol Hill may have been dominating headlines lately, but sexual harassment is prevalent across a range of industries that are out of the spotlight as well.
A chart recently published by the Center for American Progress highlights just how pervasive sexual harassment is for workers in every corner of the workforce. Low-wage service-industry jobs dominated by women, particularly women of color, and industries where men have historically outnumbered women appear to be particularly susceptible.
Utilizing a decade’s worth of data from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws against employment discrimination, CAP senior fellow Jocelyn Frye delved into more than 85,000 charges of sexual harassment to decipher where the issue is most prevalent and for whom.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of sexual harassment charges — about 80 percent — come from women, though the data show men experience workplace sexual harassment as well.
The accommodation and food services industry, which includes restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and other hospitality establishments, accounted for 14.2 percent of sexual harassment claims filed to the EEOC from 2005 to 2015. The retail industry accounted for an additional 13.4 percent of claims.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the accommodation and food services industry accounts for about 7.2 percent of the total workforce, and retail about 10.9 percent.
Many of the jobs in both sectors are lower-paying and occupied predominantly by women.
Manufacturing was the next-largest source of claims, representing 11.7 percent. In that arena, the issue appears not to be the number of women employed but instead the historical lack of them, as Frye explains:
Because many manufacturing jobs—such as machinists and craft workers—have long been male-dominated, women who enter the field may lack power or be seen as outsiders, thus making them targets for harassment.
The health care and social assistance industry accounted for 11.5 percent of claims, in large part because, like in service and retail, the sector is dominated by women and, particularly, people of color.
Frye’s analysis is not a complete one — less than half of EEOC sexual harassment claims designate a specific industry — but it does provide a snapshot of the breadth of the issue at hand. She writes:
Sexual harassment is a persistent problem in the workplace and one that affects people across industries and at every level. To combat it, it is essential to have a clear understanding of where problems are most likely to occur as well as to undertake robust measures to target discriminatory practices.