Journal of Undergraduate Research


gender ratio, military culture, sexual harassment, government organizations


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




The United States government spends millions of dollars each year in relation to incidences of sexual harassment. Far more important, however, is the psychological toll on individuals who experiences sexual harassment. Organizations function most effectively when people of all levels of the organization feel physically and emotionally safe. Unfortunately, sexual harassment occurs more frequently in the military as compared to other government agencies. Previous research has left clues about why this may be. Some have suggested that the military necessarily breeds an aggressive culture, which in turn could lead to more aggressive misdeeds. Elsewhere, researchers have demonstrated that organizational climate is the single strongest predictor of sexual harassment. Organizational climate refers to the formal organizational characteristics and perceptions regarding the tolerance, condoning, and acceptability of negative behaviors. In other words, if a person reports experiencing sexual harassment, does the organization take the report seriously? Do they investigate, and follow up with disciplinary action, if necessary? Do they take measures to ensure the future safety of the offended party? In another research project, our team discovered that sexual harassment could occur more frequently in military organizations because of the skewed gender ratio – the ratio of men to women in the military far exceeds that of other government agencies. However, though sexual harassment occurs more frequently in the military, it occurs less frequently than is expected based on the gender ratio within those organizations. We hypothesized that the organizational climate of military organizations acts as a buffer to lessen the frequency and severity of sexual harassment.

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