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Sexual discrimination in advertising widespread

Pennsylvania residents may be familiar with research indicating that sexual discrimination is still a major problem for many female workers, and one such study was published by the American Association of Advertising Agencies on Aug. 11. The trade group surveyed 400 advertising industry women, and more than half of them reported that they had endured sexual discrimination in some shape or form on one or more occasions.

Most of the senior managers, midlevel executives and other professionals polled by the trade association said that they felt vulnerable to sexual harassment or discrimination, and 40 percent claimed that their gender had prevented them from being included when important decisions were made. A third of the women surveyed told the trade group that they had been passed over at work in favor of a man.

The publication of the 4A report comes at an inopportune time for the advertising industry. The former CEO of a major New-York based agency was accused of making lewd and inappropriate comments and jokes in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in March, and the executive chairman of a London-based media giant said in July that reports of misogyny were overblown and blamed the lack off success enjoyed by female executives in the industry on an ambivalent work ethic.

Protections against workplace discrimination or harassment based upon a worker's gender are contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but women treated unfairly by their employers often remain silent. Their reluctance to come forward is sometimes the result of uncertainty about where the line separating harmless workplace banter from inappropriate behavior is drawn, but they often hesitate to act because they fear retaliation. Attorneys with experience in this area could determine whether or not a sexual harassment or discrimination claim is warranted based on the conduct involved, and they could also reassure the victims of unfair treatment in the workplace that retaliating employers can face severe sanctions.

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