Study: Men and women disagree over impact and tracking of harassment
- The #MeToo movement put the spotlight on sexual harassment's pervasiveness in the workplace, but women and men don't share the same views on the topic, the ABA Journal reports. A survey of approximately 3,000 business and law firm employees examined sexual harassment at work, how incidents are reported, why people don't speak up about it, and whether organization leaders are creating environments in which harassment is unacceptable. Although women and men agreed that organizational change is needed, they disagreed on how sexual harassment should be handled.
- Survey results showed that women and men see their organizations differently, including whether a problem exists. Women saw the #MeToo movement as a call for change in their organizations, while men disagreed with the women's perception and said they believed there was more equality between the genders at work. When asked if women and men were allies on attaining gender equality, 54% of men said yes, while only 31% of women said the same.
- “It’s unfair that the burden falls to women who haven’t had a voice to hold organizations accountable. There has been an unspoken permission that existed [for men] to treat women this way,” Jennifer Brown, diversity consultant and author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change, told ABA Journal.
Getting women and men "on the same page" when it comes to sexual misconduct in the workplace is critical, and this study speaks to the disconnect that could block the effectiveness of some training efforts. Educating employees about the law, what types of behaviors are considered inappropriate and how to report incidences likely need to be a part of any effective program. Reports on the issue in academia, however, note that systemic change may be needed to address harassment overall.
In some of the high-profile sexual harassment claims, HR was said to have ignored complaints and, in some cases, remained complicit in covering up allegations of misconduct with non-disclosure agreements and through other means. But HR managers can take the lead in changing the workplace environment, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) leaders recently said at the EEOC EXCEL Training Conference. They must follow up on claims without bias, conduct investigations and take corrective action — ensuring everyone at an organization, including top leaders, are held accountable to the same rules to protect everyone.
The agency has been examining the issue with increased depth since at least 2016, but so far, little has worked to stem the issue. Some of those systemic changes may need to include an overhaul of diversity and inclusion initiatives to improve the presence of women and people of color throughout an organization, including at the top.