As time progresses, social mores and ideas about appropriate and inappropriate workplace behavior evolve. A recent piece in Harvard Business Review sought to compare today’s attitudes about sexual harassment in the workplace with those collected in a survey conducted in 1981. In 1981, a survey was sent to Harvard Business Review subscribers, of whom 7 percent were female.
The survey had a 25 percent response rate and women comprised 44 percent of the respondents. The piece also detailed the presence of anti-harassment policies in American workplaces today versus 1981.
Different Groups Have Different Views on Sexual Harassment
The survey found that male and female respondents had different views about the impact sexual harassment can have on a workplace, and which actions constituted harassment. A few highlights from the 1981 survey include:
- 32 percent of women felt that “the amount of sexual harassment at work is greatly exaggerated,” a view held by 66 percent of male respondents
- Women were more likely to respond that male harassers should receive formal warnings or face termination, while male respondents were more likely to hold the view that the victims should take steps to end the harassment
- In a hypothetical scenario detailing a man making a sexual comment about a woman’s body to his colleague, male respondents were more likely to state that the second man would remain silent or feel neutrally about the interaction, whereas female respondents were more likely to assume he would find amusement in the remark
How Does Sexual Harassment Hurt a Workplace?
Sexual harassment hurts more than just the direct victim. It creates an atmosphere where other harassment victims feel they cannot voice their concerns. It can also foster a hostile environment where harassment becomes part of the average workday, which can create feelings of anger, resentment, and fear in workers as well as a way for supervisors to “play favorites” with their subordinates.
Sexual Harassment in Today’s Workplace
When the original survey was conducted, only 29 percent of responders’ companies had some type of formal prohibition against sexual harassment and only 8 percent reported having manuals or other training materials related to harassment in the workplace. Today, more than 98 percent of companies have anti-harassment policies in place and more than 70 percent provide training about how to recognize and report sexual harassment.
This does not mean that sexual harassment no longer happens or that employees feel universally protected by these policies. A 2016 survey found that many American workers interpret harassment policies as formulaic and feel that they create a culture of fear, rather than one of respect. Today, approximately one in three women experiences being sexually harassment in the workplace, but only 5 to 15 percent of harassment victims report their cases to their supervisors. Often, this is out of fear of retaliation.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represents Harassment Victims
No matter what you might have heard or how your colleagues feel about sexual harassment, harassment in the workplace is always harmful. If you have experienced harassment at the hands of your supervisor or others in your workplace, you do not have to remain silent. Submit an online contact form or call 215-569-1999 to arrange a free and confidential consultation with a seasoned Philadelphia harassment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Our office is in Philadelphia and we serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.