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Multilevel power dynamics shaping employer anti-sexual harassment efforts in Lebanon

Charlotte Karam (Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)
May Ghanem (Suliman S. Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 15 October 2019

Issue publication date: 18 May 2021




The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment (SH) has sparked a sense of familiarity, and collective anger among women, highlighting it as a pervasive and common experience across the globe. The purpose of this paper is to argue that despite shared experiences and such transnational movements, the ways in which SH is actually understood and combated are likely to be different in disparate National Business Systems (NBS). Through the analysis, the authors unpack these differences by paying specific attention to the multilevel power dynamics shaping how employers and their key stakeholders understand and respond to SH in Lebanon.


Against the backdrop of the complex and inefficient Lebanese NBS, the authors adopt a cross-cultural feminist analytic framework and engage in an iterative qualitative analysis of over 208 pages of transcriptions from relevant multisector, multi-stakeholder interactive sessions. Based on the analysis, the authors propose a series of first- and second-order concepts and themes that help us to trace how power shapes local SH understandings and related efforts.


The findings highlight the simultaneous influence of power through geopolitical forces external to Lebanon (i.e. power over through North-centricism and othering; power to through comparative perspectives and SDG regulations), combined with local forces embedded within the specific NBS (i.e. power over through negative attitudes and NBS specificities; power to through positive business efforts and local multistakeholder mobilizing).


The findings demonstrate the importance of paying attention to the interaction between power, contextual embeddedness and geopolitical considerations in attempts to advance SH theorization.



This research was made possible through a research grant awarded by the American University of Beirut’s University Research Board to the first author (Award No. 103370; Project No. 23904). The first author would also like to acknowledge the generous support of the Arab Fund Fellowship Program for their generous sabbatical support during which the paper was written.


Karam, C. and Ghanem, M. (2021), "Multilevel power dynamics shaping employer anti-sexual harassment efforts in Lebanon", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 375-391.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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