While strolling through a bookstore or musing Amazon.com in the middle of the night, you likely will see hundreds of books with the title Sex and the Office; this one is different. Sex and the Office: Women, Men, and the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace is a hard-hitting look at the world of the modern office and human interaction. Written by Kim Elsesser PhD, the book describes a very serious and somewhat invisible force that makes being promoted as a woman difficult in a corporate world. This force is called “The Sex Partition.” In her book, Elsesser looks at public cases and personal experiences that showed her what it was like working in offices were human beings are now so afraid of Sexual Harassment charges that their behaviors can actually hurt business performance and profits by segregating employees and limiting interaction.
Kim Elsesser is thoughtful in her points and highly details what Sexual Harassment is and isn’t. She also points out the terrifying fact that your office likely doesn’t have its policies in place for your protection from Sexual Harassment, but rather to keep them from getting sued in the case that it does happen. What I found most terrifying was something that I see on a daily basis living in a a small town; perception is everything. Sure, the older male boss may want to further the career of his younger female protege, but he is likely to avoid meetings in the office or outside friendship because he doesn’t know if he will be accused of harassment or if she will be accused of “sleeping her way to the top.” It is far easier for him to have a drink with his younger male colleagues or play golf on a business trip and make small talk. And in every job, it’s not what you know, but who you know that advances you. Kim Elsesser made me think of all the times that strong, smart women have lost out on a move up in a company because of fear from another employee.
However, Kim Elsesser is also quick to point out that in cases of actual Sexual Harassment, those who suffer the experience likely will fear coming forward to complain due to many real cases that although won, lead to the female plaintiff returning to a cold and distant set of fellow employees. She is careful to point out that should real sexual harassment occur, it should be documented immediately.
Sex and the Office is terrifying for those of us who have worked in mostly male-dominated fields, but Kim Elsesser also does great work in point out what we can do to protect ourselves, while thriving in a working environment. She encourages women to keep working with male colleagues and remembering that we are all human beings, and not everyone is a harasser. This is not a beach read or a book to casually flip through. Sex and the Office is not a quick read but a deeply important one for all women in the workplace.
Sex and the Office: Women, Men, and the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace is available now. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title.