In the fall of 1991, an obscure law professor named Anita Hill pushed the issue of sexual harassment into the public consciousness when she accused her former boss, the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, of having repeatedly made lewd overtures toward her.
But the episode sent a mixed message, in the view of many discrimination experts. While it raised awareness about a corrosive workplace behavior, the intense backlash against Ms. Hill, not least from members of the United States Senate, suggested that women faced great obstacles in redressing such abuses. (Mr. Thomas denied the allegations.)
Nearly 25 years later, after a string of sexual harassment allegations that led to the ouster of Roger Ailes, the former chairman of Fox News, and a cascade of sexual assault accusations against the comedian Bill Cosby, some of those experts believe we may be approaching another Anita Hill moment.
The Ailes and Cosby cases, they say, could be influential among women across the work force not just because of the intrinsic power of these examples, but because they come at a moment of empowerment for women in their struggle for equality. And when women’s assertiveness produces dramatic results like the resignation of Mr. Ailes, it can inspire more women to follow the same path.