Document Type

Article - On Campus Only

Publication Date



The purpose of this study was to explore evidence of gender-based vicarious sensitivity to disempowering behavior in organizations, expanding the concept of hostile working environment beyond the context of sexual harassment. Male and female graduate and undergraduate students viewed 10 video segments of Anita Hill's interview by U.S. senators during the October 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Clarence Thomas. Although no significant relationship was found between the personal attributes of age and ethnicity to perceptions of disempowering behavior, female participants reported seeing significantly more offensive behavior in the video segments than did male participants. The results are discussed in terms of greater female sensitivity to common forms of disempowering behavior in organizations, and having a disparate negative impact and systematically placing women at a disadvantage in today's workforce.

Recommended Citation

Vance, Charles & Ensher, Ellen & Hendricks, Frederica & Harris, Claudia. (2004). Gender-Based Vicarious Sensitivity to Disempowering Behavior in Organizations: Exploring an Expanded Concept of Hostile Working Environment. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal. 16. 135-147.