Frank Dobbin, Harvard University

Does Harassment Prevention Prevent Harassment? Evidence from the Workplace
Frank Dobbin


Fall 2018
Lecture Time: 
Friday, November 16, 2018 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business
Introduced By: 
Reuben Hurst


Two decades ago the Supreme Court vetted the workplace harassment programs popular at the time; sexual harassment training and harassment grievance procedures. Yet harassment at work remains common. Do these programs reduce harassment? Program effects have been difficult to measure, but because women frequently quit their jobs after being harassed, programs that reduce harassment should help firms to retain current and aspiring women managers. Thus, effective programs should be followed by increases in women managers. We analyze data from 805 companies over 32 years to explore how new sexual harassment programs affect the representation of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian-American women in management. We find support for several propositions. First, sexual harassment grievance procedures, shown in surveys to incite retaliation without satisfying complainants, are followed by decreases in women managers. Second, training for managers, which encourages managers to look for signs of trouble and intervene, is followed by increases in women managers. Third, employee training, which proscribes specific behaviors and signals that male trainees are potential perpetrators, is followed by decreases in women managers. Two propositions specify how management composition moderates program effects. One, because women are more likely to believe harassment complaints and less likely to respond negatively to training, in firms with more women managers, programs work better. Two, in firms with more women managers, group threat may reduce the effectiveness of sexual harassment programs for white women – the group of women posing the biggest threat to male managers.

Recording & Additional Notes