Sexual Harassment in the Egyptian Workplace: A Literature Review and Research Agenda

By Amin, Ahmed; Darrag, Menatallah S. | Review of Management, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Sexual Harassment in the Egyptian Workplace: A Literature Review and Research Agenda


Amin, Ahmed, Darrag, Menatallah S., Review of Management


Introduction

Sexual harassment (SH) is defined as "behaviors that violates, derogates, demeans, or humiliates an individual based on sex or gender" (Lopez, Hodson, & Roscigno, 2009, p. 4). In the workplace, SH can take the form of tying employment benefits or conditions to sexual favors and/or creating an unfavorable working environment for individuals' of a specific sex or gender. Examples of SH include unwelcomed sexual advances, touching, gestures and comments.

Research has shown that SH has significant negative work related, psychological and physical consequences for victims (Welsh, 1999). At the organizational level, SH has been shown to negatively affect employee turnover, absenteeism, increased medical claims and productivity. Additionally, U.S. organizations found liable for SH have been penalized with huge damage awards to the victims (Robinson & Frink, 2002). Because of these negative consequences, US organizations pay two billion dollars on efforts to combat SH in the workplace (Shalley & Parsons, 2002).

Although sexual harassment in the workplace has been studied extensively in the West, Egyptian scholars have not given much attention to the issue. A review of EBSCO and Emerald electronic database shows that not a single study has been published on SH in Egypt. This is unfortunate as there are several signs that SH is a major problem in the Egyptian society (Shafeek, 2009). For example, one report indicated that up to 83% of Egyptian women have experienced SH (Stack, 2008). Several newspaper articles and movies have also highlighted the problem. SH has become such a problem in Egypt that one non-governmental organization has recently launched a website called Harassmap.org that showed the incidents of SH reported on a map of Cairo as a guide for women wishing to avoid hostel regions.

There are several reasons that may explain why SH has not received attention in Egypt. First, sexually oriented issues have been considered as a taboo subject and as such have been ignored by scholars. Second, the political regime has long claimed that it provides safe working environments for women and as such discouraged any research that would shed doubts on its claims. Denial and silence was the common formal response to allegations of SH (Shenker, 2010).

After many years of political and economic stagnation, Egypt is experiencing revolutionary changes. These changes reflect the society's yearning for reform and democracy. Concurrently, demographic and social changes show that the Egyptian workforce is becoming younger and that the participation of women is increasing. Within this context it is important to study SH for several reasons. First, there is evidence that SH does exist in Egyptian organizations. Continuing to deny the existence of SH or ignoring it may be considered a violation of human rights. This may be true because SH can be considered an obstacle to employment. Second, the competitiveness of Egyptian organizations in the global marketplace may depend on the extent to which they are able to manage employees' diversity and create a productive work environment. As such, preventing or minimizing SH may help Egyptian organizations improve their competitiveness. Third, the study of SH in the Egyptian context may allow for the construction of regional or country specific HRM theories.

The purpose of this paper is to review and integrate some of the literature on SH and suggest an agenda for future research on this topic in Egypt. Towards this purpose, the paper is organized in two parts. First, we will review the process, antecedents and consequences of SH. Second, we will discuss some of ideas that may direct future research on SH.

The Process of Sexual Harassment

Research has also examined the process or dynamics of SH in the workplace. Although SH is not always initiated by men, most studies have indicated that females are the usual target. Additionally, studies have shown that harassment usually is carried out with an element of force or coercion. …

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