It’s difficult to believe, but there was a time when discrimination in the workplace seemed commonplace. Many places had a significant problem with sexual harassment towards subordinates or between direct colleagues. Some people even brushed it off as no big deal, thinking that victims were being too sensitive or even exaggerating.
The #MeToo movement helped challenge those ideas and effect positive change. More people than ever here in North Carolina have a better understanding of what workplace sexual harassment looks like and how to prevent or report it. No matter your gender, if you’ve ever been sexually harassed while at work, you know how upsetting it can be and the potential negative impact it can have on your career. But what are companies actually doing to address the potential problem? Are they doing enough or is there room for improvement?
The statistics of sexual harassment
The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is pervasive, even after #MeToo. One study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, in 2018, 40% of women experienced sexual harassment at work, sometimes in the form of unwanted sexual advances, both physical and verbal in nature. Though that number is unsettling, other studies show falling rates of this kind of harassment. From 2016 to 2018, there was a 41% drop in unwanted sexual attention at work.
As encouraging as these numbers are, #MeToo may have brought forth some other issues in the workplace, such as gender discrimination. Some studies found companies are less likely to hire attractive women. Other workplaces report a decline in one-on-one meetings between male and female employees. If trends like this continue, there could be a negative impact upon women’s careers.
How to improve your workplace
Many companies made the choice to offer additional training on sexual harassment thanks to the #MeToo movement. Even businesses that had policies already in place regarding sexual harassment decided to pay more attention to the issue, bringing in experts and offering special seminars. Some of them expanded existing training to include issues such as “revenge porn” and microaggression. Advocates say that companies can do more by creating a culture of inclusivity.
There are also ways for employees to help themselves, and the additional training teaches them how to do so. Workers of both genders are encouraged to speak up for themselves and others when necessary. Some of the training offers helpful suggestions for subtly changing power dynamics in a potentially-uncomfortable situation, such as opening a door during “private” meetings. The training also helps male employees better understand what type of workplace conduct is appropriate.
Have you been sexually harassed at work?
Even with all of these admirable efforts, sexual harassment in the workplace will still happen. If you have been a victim of unwanted sexual attention or advances at work, you have rights of which you may be unaware. You may want to speak with an employment law attorney who can help you understand them.