Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD, Director; William P. Foster, EdD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD


equality, Leadership studies, Naval officers, perceptual differences, Phenomenology, Sexual harassment, United States Navy, women


Sexual harassment has grown to epidemic proportions since being documented as a workplace problem. Court cases are rising along with costs to organizations from litigation, turnover, absenteeism and stress-related medical claims. Courts are continually refining the legal definition of sexual harassment, resulting in a steady expansion of employers' liability. Perceptions of men and women regarding what constitutes sexual harassment differ markedly as do their responses to sexually oriented behaviors at work. Development of a formula for effectively preventing sexual harassment is, therefore, a complex and perplexing exercise. Two of three women serving in the military report that they have been sexually harassed. Women account for over 10% of service personnel, but the nature of military jobs encourages men with "macho" images to gravitate toward its ranks, further aggravating the problem of overcoming sex-role stereotypes. Despite these obstacles, the military, unlike civilian organizations, can strongly enforce sanctions against those who disobey stated policies. As an example, the Navy's policy of "zero tolerance" for drug abuse has resulted in a nearly drug-free Navy. Its policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment has not been similarly effective. Eight women officers give their perspective on the Navy's efforts to prevent the kind of sexual harassment they encountered. The consequences of the harassment they experienced are described in detail. This descriptive research employed a phenomenological methodology in concert with survey and archival data to reach a more complete understanding of the effect of the sexual harassment experience on mature, well-educated, female managers. Results indicate that the institutional character of the Navy places it at a disadvantage in narrowing perceptual differences of its personnel. Creating change in an embedded culture which, by law, restricts job assignments for its women is a challenging prospect. Revising customs in an organization which reveres its heritage is even more daunting. Pending legislation which mandates equality of job assignments, re-socialization is the key to long-term change. The goal of this research has been to create an understanding of the need for that change. Without this additional insight, the actions of organizational leaders will not support their stated policy of "zero tolerance."

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access