Nearly half of working women in the U.S. say they have experienced harassment in the workplace – yet 80% of these victims never report this harassment internally. These are the top 4 reasons victims don’t feel safe to report harassment:
🤐 Fear of retaliation or stigma
🤐 Fear of not being believed, or being accused of “asking for it” or “making trouble”
🤐 Lack of support, including clarity on the processes, policies, and regulations
🤐 Lack of consequences for the perpetrator (whether real or perceived)
… and all of these factors are underpinned by a culture of harassment.
Part of the reason why sexual harassment is so prevalent is that it’s actually a symptom of the larger systemic power issue between women and men in the workplace.
Men dominate the highest ranks of leadership in all sectors, and so those who are unethical can abuse that power to exploit the people working for them (most often women when it comes to sexual harassment).
In fact, research shows that male-dominated workplaces see higher rates of sexual harassment compared to gender-balanced or female-dominated workplaces.
🤔 No. It’s important to understand that sexual harassment can happen between any genders in the workplace, even if the male perpetrator / female victim dynamic is the most common.
- 👆🏻👨🏻 In 2018,16% of sexual harassment allegations received by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were filed by men.
- 🥺🤐 Yet, a survey conducted by The British Broadcasting Corporation suggested that 79% of male victims of sexual harassment do not tell anyone for fear of ridicule, emasculation or their claim being dismissed.
- 🌈 In fact, the exact figures for any social group are difficult to know. For example, seven in ten LGBT workers surveyed by The Trades Union Congress admit they have been sexually harassed in the workplace but two-thirds chose not to report it.
- 👩🏿 👱🏿♀️ Data shows that black women in the US are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment, filing claims at three times the rate of white, non-Hispanic women. This adds to the picture that the power dynamics at play in the sexual harassment problem are complex.
So, what can you do as a team to prevent sexual harassment and stamp out a culture of silence?
👉 Make sure employees know how to come forward. Integrate it as part of the onboarding process for new employees and verify that this information is easily accessible and navigable at all times.
👉 Maintain confidentiality. As we’ve seen with the #MeToo movement, victims of sexual harassment who come forward encounter accusations that they want to be “famous” or suffer vitriolic comments about their “attention-seeking” behavior. Keep the process confidential and avoid this fallout for the individual speaking up.
👉 Promote more women into leadership positions to offset power imbalances. Yes, admittedly, this is a long game – but it will help mitigate the exploitation of women trying to pave their path in the workplace.
👉 Make sure employees know they won’t face retribution for speaking up and speak openly about your zero-tolerance policy for retaliation. In fact, retaliation is unlawful, as we covered in the last section!
👉 Include a bystander clause in your sexual harassment policy so the onus does not rest solely on the person experiencing harassment to report inappropriate behavior. We’ll cover more on how to be an active, engaged bystander in the next section.
👉 Reiterate the fact that sexual harassment is predatory behavior, instead of using words like “perpetrator” or “target” – emotive language helps everyone better remember what constitutes inappropriate behavior.
👉 Ban questionable, sexually-charged comments and messages that contribute to a culture of harassment.
👉 Have your leaders regularly communicate their commitment to stamping out sexual harassment, and actively encourage people to come forward if they’ve experienced or witnessed misconduct.
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