Pull Down The Pinups, Raze The Glass Ceiling

The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is gaining new attention. Thanks to some recent court rulings, companies that have previously winked at intimidation as the normal behavior of "boys" at play are finding that they can no longer do so. And companies that already had policies barring harassment are stepping up efforts to educate workers on proper etiquette between the sexes. They're rewriting the rules so that employees can't misunderstand them. They're posting warnings in work areas and pulling down pinup calendars and girlie posters.

In one recent ruling, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that whether office conduct is sexually offensive must be judged not by applying the traditional "reasonable man rule" but by the standards of a reasonable woman. At the same time, surging ranks of female managers are changing norms--and their complaints and lawsuits are forcing companies to respond accordingly. Now, Congress is about to step in. It is considering civil rights bills that would give employees charging sexual harassment the right to jury trials and punitive damages.

Ridding the workplace of sexual harassment is certainly a necessary step in attaining equality between the sexes. And managers must redouble their efforts to attain this goal. However, companies can't focus entirely on the harassment issue. Sexual bullying works to diminish women's role in corporations. It is just one of many ways women are held back from job advancement. Corporations must work to solve this problem, too.