SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE HEADLINES
As you may have noticed, headlines are exploding with news about sexual harassment. Many Americans agree that sexual harassment is a serious problem. A Washington Post-ABC News poll marked a significant increase, from 47 percent of Americans saying they felt that sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem, to a 64% increase in 2017 – post Harvey Weinstein scandal. It seems that every day the news covers one more incident of sexual harassment in the workplace. Harassers include individuals in Hollywood, politicians, publishers and editors, news contributors, restauranteurs and a slew of others. It is not a hyperbolic to state that this topic has been part of our daily news cycle for months.
The sexual harassment problem has been around for much longer than recent months, and the problem is even worse in low-profile, low-accountability, and low wage industries (employees who rely on tips; employees who have little power; and in industries dominated by men, like construction). According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 85 percent of women say that they have been sexually harassed at work.
There are lessons to be learned in all industries, whether they are at the forefront of the conversation, or not. When it comes to harassment, transparency helps women, workplaces, and broader society recognize the problem of harassment, and react to it. Sexual abuse is a consistent and pervasive feature of the modern workforce, however there is not much data and public information about it. This is in part because women tend to keep knowledge of such incidents to themselves – maybe for fear of retaliation, and not being believed. In some workplaces, there may be a lack of recognition of the problem which helps to foster a lack of accountability and a lack of repercussions for harassers.
While there is no magic pill to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to create a culture where employers are aware of the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and make it easier for all to speak up without fear.
If you watched the Golden Globes this week, you may have heard Oprah Winfrey spend valuable time speaking about women speaking up against abuse and sexual harassment – “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” Let’s all find our voice.