Working in a hostile work environment can mean many different things. In some cases, a worker may feel that a work environment is hostile because of uncomfortable conversations or comments. However, a work environment can also be hostile if employees feel like they are being harassed. There can be grey area when it comes to assessing workplace hostility, since different employees of different genders may perceive actions or words differently.
It is well-known that certain industries and careers draw more men than women and vice versa. While this gender imbalance is not automatically a problem, an issue can arise if workers of one gender feel singled out for being in the minority and feel that they are receiving unwanted or inappropriate attention.
The auto industry is one workplace where men outnumber women by leaps and bounds. For instance, one female engineer in the auto industry is the only woman on her 30-person team. In the auto industry, hostility may appear in the form of surprise that a woman would be the manager or the engineer in the plant.
Just because a woman chooses to work in a field that is dominated by men, she does not deserve to be subjected to undeserved or inappropriate comments or looks. Working in such a gender-imbalanced workplace may be difficult on its own, let alone having to experience harassment in this setting.
Women may think that a hostile work environment does not constitute harassment, but they should know that a variety of things can constitute harassment, including unwanted and inappropriate comments. A woman who feels that her work environment is hostile may benefit from contacting an attorney.
Source: USA Today, "Female auto engineers make marks while outnumbered," Jayne O'Donnell, Feb. 15, 2013