Don’t be quiet facing sexual harassment

In our previous blog we talked about identifying what practices or actions in our workplaces are considered workplace harassment and what actions we should take if at any time we must face such a situation, however, in this publication we will return to the issue of harassment, but emphasizing one of its most common, uncomfortable and degrading forms: sexual harassment.

Although in the workplace, women are much more common victims of this type of attack than men, in recent years, this phenomenon has exploded and both men and women have been immersed in this type of situation. The Web portal “Stop Street Harassment” in January 2018, applied a nationally representative survey of 2,000 people on sexual harassment and assault, conducted and found that throughout the country, 81% of women and 43% of Men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and / or assault in their lifetime.

For a couple of decades, most organizations and executives have been grappling with the problem, but sexual harassment is still with us, as the #MeToo movement has expressed it . Today, about 40% of women (and 16% of men) say they have been sexually harassed at work, a figure that, surprisingly, has not changed since the 1980s. In fact, this could happen because of women are now more likely to use the term “stalker” rather than “sassy” to refer to a troublesome boss. But given how widespread complaint procedures and training on prohibited behaviors have become, why Why are the numbers still so high? This is an interesting question posed by The Harvard Business Review.

The Washington Post and the ABC network conducted a survey in which a third of women claimed to have ever been subjected to unwanted sexual advances by a superior or co-worker with power over their position and from this group, a  third part pointed out that the boss or employee had abused them. The same survey indicated that 6 out of 10 women who had suffered this harassment have not notified a supervisor. Those affected reported feeling intimidated (60%), ashamed (31%) and, above all, angry (83%).

Sexual harassment at work is a harmful matter: whoever suffers it feels guilty and is ashamed of it, which represents two great reasons to remain silent and few to report. Whoever knows him needs to feign ignorance to justify his inaction or indifference, and whoever commits usually has large action space and power that will make him go unpunished.

The American portal Statista offers alarming figures in this regard: The investigation found that 60 percent of all American women have been sexually harassed by a man at some point, while 27 percent have not been harassed and 8 percent  prefer not to say it. When it comes to acknowledging the problem, 27 percent of Americans consider it very serious, while 42 percent think it is not so serious.

The Harvard Business Review comments in one of its publications that the term sexual harassment spread through academic circles in the 1970s and began to gain traction as a legal concept in 1977. That year, feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon presented the argument. that harassment in the workplace constitutes sex discrimination, which is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Federal judges had previously rejected this idea, but in 1978 three courts had agreed with MacKinnon, and in 1986 the Supreme Court agreed. There are multiple definitions of sexual harassment, but all of them coincide in two aspects: that it is  aconduct with components of a sexual nature and that  violates the dignity of the person who is a victim of this situation.

McKinnon (1979) describes it as “the unwanted imposition of sexual favors in the context of an unequal power relationship” and considers as examples verbal suggestions or jokes with sexual connotations, winks, hugs, pinches, indecent propositions and sexual intercourse imposed by the  force.

The European Community in 1991, referring to the dignity of women and men at work, addressed this type of harassment and proposed the following:Sexual harassment is “all conduct of a sexual nature (we include verbal, non-verbal and physical conduct) or other sex-based conduct that affects the dignity of women and men at work, including the conduct of superiors and colleagues.It will be unacceptable if:

  • Such conduct is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the person who is the object of it.
  • The refusal or submission of a person to such conduct by employers or workers, is used explicitly or implicitly as the basis for making a decision that has effects on the access of the person (victim) to vocational training, employment, continuity in it, salary or any other decision related to the workplace.
  • This conduct creates an intimidating, hostile and humiliating work environment for the person who is the object of it, and may, in certain circumstances, be contrary to the principle of equality.

In many workplaces , sexual harassment behaviors can trigger emotional distress, decreased performance, producing high costs for the entire organization not only in the economic aspect but also in the production capacity of the staff and their physical and mental health .

Providing training on the prevention of sexual harassment to your work team contributes to stopping this phenomenon and increasing the dignity and morale of the team. It is important to learn what to do when faced with these situations.There are many myths regarding sexual harassment, and these are two of the most common:

At Rocío Life Coach we want to support you regarding the tools you can provide to your work team to create a safe environment and raise awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment. Contact me on my website and let’s develop together a strategic plan for your company.

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