Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Zaloznaya, Marina

Second Advisor

Harkness, Sarah

First Committee Member

Zaloznaya, Marina

Second Committee Member

Harkness, Sarah

Third Committee Member

Noonan, Mary


Continued research on sex-based discrimination is necessary given the pervasiveness of the problem and well-documented adverse outcomes for those who experience it. One widely studied contributor to sex-based discrimination in the workplace is gender composition. While a litany of studies have predicted a linear relationship between the proportion of men in a workforce and the incidence of sex discrimination, newer research has indicated a curvilinear relationship. As the state workforce represents both an aggregation of its institutions and the broader environment in which these institutions exist, state-level analysis is needed to resolve this discrepancy. However, past studies have largely been conducted at the institutional or work-group level and no research to date has explored the effect the gender composition of a state's workforce may have on sex-based discrimination filings. Using a unique dataset compiled from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and United States Census Bureau for the years 2009-2012, I find that the state is indeed an important locus of inquiry with regard to sex discrimination outcomes. Negative binomial analysis of state sex-based discrimination filings on gender composition of state's employed population reveals a curvilinear relationship, with the least filings in the most balanced and the most male-dominated state workforces, net of all controls.

Public Abstract

Sex-based discrimination remains a major problem in workplaces today, with severe outcomes for those who experience it. It is therefore important to understand the conditions under which sex-based discrimination occurs and is reported so that solutions can be derived for reducing or eliminating the problem. Most studies of the effect of gender composition on sex discrimination have demonstrated that as the number of men relative to women in a workplace increase, sex discrimination also increases. However, new studies have suggested that the relationship is not that simple. In order to better determine the effect a workforce’s gender composition has on sex discrimination, I turn to state-level data. Drawing from a variety of sources, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and United States Census Bureau, I find support for the idea that the state plays an important role in determining how many sex-based discrimination charges are filed in each state in an average year. Consistent with recent research, I find that as the number of women relative to men in a state’s workforce increases, the number of sex-based harassment claims also increases, but only up to a certain point. When the gender composition reaches this plateau, the relationship reverses and as the number of women relative to men continues to increase, the number of sex-based charges then decrease. The highest average number of sex-based discrimination charges filed between the years 2009 and 2012 were in states with the most gender-balanced and the most male-dominated workforces.


publicabstract, gender composition, Sex-based discrimination, state labor force


vii, 45 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 42-45).


Copyright 2015 Nicole Marie Oehmen

Included in

Sociology Commons