Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Yes we all know it is a horrible practice. But there is no denying the fact that sexual and other discrimination in the workplace of women is a reality that we have lived with for decades and perhaps even centuries. The incidences of sexual harassment against women have increased quite significantly. There are many high profile stories where some of the most worrisome cases of sexual harassments have taken place. While many have been exposed from big and well known companies, it is quite possible that there could be hundreds of cases that might go unreported.

Workplace

According to experts what gets exposed and reported might just be the tip of the iceberg. According to the United Nations, there are around 40 to 50% of women belonging to the European Union and around 30 to 40% women in Asia-Pacific countries who are subjected to various forms and types of sexual harassment at the workplace. The figures are also quite depressing as far as the United States is concerned. According to a survey around 30% of women in this country have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment.

What About Others?

There is no denying the fact that women bear the brunt as far as sexual harassment in workplaces are concerned. However, many LGBTQ people are also subjected to such harassments. Further, women belonging to different colors are also affected more when compared to whites and fair skins. There are also a small percentage of men who are also harassed by other women and men.

What Is Sexual Harassment In Workplace?

While understanding the various harassment facts is important for women, the right beginning has to be made. We will have to understand the basic definition and scope of sexual harassment at the workplace. Put in simple words, sexual harassment at workplace could be defined as unwelcome sexual behavior. The behavior may be such that it could offend the other person. It could also make her feel intimated and humiliated. The form of abuse can be physical, verbal or written. Sexual harassment is deemed to have happened if it takes place at the workplace, at various work-related events or in places where people are busy with their work-related activities. It also is considered to be sexual harassment when people share the same workplace and there is some inappropriate activity happening in such situations.

A single instance of sexual harassment is enough and there is no requirement for repetition. If we look at the various sexual harassment statistics most of them may have occurred only for the first time. As mentioned above, men are also subjected to sexual harassment but the instances are far lower when compared to women. Some studies point out to the fact that one in five women may have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace during their career lives.

Importance Of Culture And Sexual Harassment

When we talk about sexual harassment, we need to look at it from a broader perspective. In a country like the USA, where there is a large diversity in cultures workplace harassment could have a bigger impact on the organization as a whole. While there are well laid down sexual harassment policies in place in the USA, there are still many cases of sexual harassment complaints pouring in. Has this got to do more with the specific cultures of the persons being impacted or being accused? We need to perhaps delve a bit deeper into this subject.

In some cultures, holding hands or even shaking hands with a woman is considered inappropriate. However, according to western culture, a warm hug with a caress of the cheeks is considered perfectly okay between a man and woman. Therefore, it may not be right to use the same brush that is applicable in one culture and paint it across the board. Sexual harassment perhaps becomes obvious when the privacy of the woman in question is impacted negatively. Further, when she feels that she is being intimated or humiliated either by physical action, verbal or written action, then it is a clear case of sexual harassment that cuts across cultural, ethnic and color barriers.

There Should Be More Transparency And Opening Up

Most sexual harassment claims are not even brought to light and they are silently settled behind closed doors. Hence there is little chance of getting to know as to what actually has happened. Even when details are shared, the focus remains more on the juicy and interesting part of the exploitation rather than trying to learn lessons from it. There is a need for women and all other interested and right-thinking stakeholders to be more forthcoming and transparent. Otherwise nothing much will change on the ground and rules and regulations will continue to remain merely on paper.

Having A Reporting Culture is Important

Many women who undergo sexual harassment are too traumatized and afraid to report and escalate the matter. Hence, there should be a more efficient and foolproof way by which things can come out from the hearts and minds of the women who undergo such suffering. The women should be made to feel that they are safe escalating the matter and there will not be any hounding or victimization if they are open and forthcoming. This is all the more vital if the offender happens to be either her immediate superior or someone higher up in the hierarchy of the company. In many cases, women prefer to keep silent because they believe that reporting and perhaps taking the help of a lawyer in NY could only complicate matters further.

The Red Flags To Look For

Many sexual offenses are quite obvious and could range from touching that is unwelcome or inappropriate, leering or staring, sharing posters, videos and pictures that are sexually explicit, unsolicited invitations for dates, requests for sexual favor and even asking uncomfortable and intrusive questions about the anatomy of women.

Who Should Be Made Responsible

This again is a gray area as far as sexual harassment is concerned. There is no doubt that the person who makes such acts is the primary person who could be in the wrong. The organization cannot also escape responsibility. This is because in many cases, the woman who has suffered may have escalated the matter as per laid down procedures. If the person up in the hierarchy refuses to act, then the organization and the persons responsible for acting should also be held liable.

The Final Word

To conclude, sexual harassment at workplaces is a reality and it cannot be brushed under the carpet. The onus lies on society in general and men in particular to understand that this is a wrong thing to do. Women also should be more forthcoming, brave and ready to take the bull by the horn if the problem has to be corrected, over a period of time.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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