One year on from the ‘#me too’ movement, that began in Hollywood and ascended onto the rest of the world within minutes, via social media; sexual harassment is still a subject that is cropping up frequently throughout our radio stations, news sources and general ‘chit chat’ in the local coffee shop.
Clubs, public transport, parks, shopping centres, work, festivals, at home: a never-ending list of places where both women and men are experiencing sexual harassment of some form. It’s everywhere and fortunately as a society, we can’t ignore it anymore because social media, for one won’t allow it. According to an article published by the BBC last year, half of British woman and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed in work or at a place of study. For most of us, these stats don’t come as a surprise since workplace sexual harassment has been widespread for decades, but there’s always been a lack of action by many employers to address the facts. So, how can this approach be reversed and what can employers do to tackle the issue?
What is sexual harassment?
Depending on our age, gender, social background and many other factors, an individual’s interpretation of sexual harassment can differ. Wolf whistling, for example; harmless behaviour or flattering to some people whereas others, usually 18-24 year olds according to https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/11/01/sexual-harassment-how-genders-and-generations-see-/ see it as usually or always sexual harassment. Unwanted touching or groping, speaking to a colleague in a sexual manner, emails with content of a sexual nature and using intimate language are also all forms of sexual harassment. Some more innocent than others, however still need to be recognised and addressed.
Getting told an intimate joke; A 21-year-old fresh out of University, in her first graduate job is more than likely to scrunch their face up and stare back motionless in this situation, compared to an older woman or man whose more likely to laugh it off. So, to avoid the awkward silences and more importantly keep all employees happy and feeling comfortable whilst at work; understand and gage every individual’s reactions and emotions. We’re not all the same (thankfully), so bare this in mind!
Addressing sexual harassment
- Understand that it’s not always ‘banter’.
- Provide training in line with UK law and policies to all levels of management and HR
- Reinforce that complaints will be taken seriously so people feel confident that they’re going to be listened to.
- Ensure that you have clear ‘zero tolerance’ approach to sexual harassment with policies that reinforce this.
Lastly, remember the worth of every individual and listen when they need listening to.