Sexual Harassment – Why The Numbers Tell The Whole Story

It’s everyone’s business because it’s a pervasive workplace problem.

Or is it?

Surely that was the way it was way back then.

But we are now in 2015 – at a time when workplaces are much more aware and respectful. Surely that doesn’t apply to us now does it?

Enter a newly released study commissioned by Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Cosmo and Sexual Harassment

The survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work. Cosmopolitan surveyed 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees and found that one in three women has experienced sexual harassment at work at some point their lives.

“Sexual harassment hasn’t gone away — it’s just taken on new forms,” Michelle Ruiz and Lauren Ahn wrote.

Unlike workplace sexual harassment portrayed in films and pop culture that represent it as overtly aggressive, sexual harassment at work isn’t always easy to spot. It can be a sexual comment in a meeting or even an insinuating Facebook message.

The American Association of University Women defines workplace sexual harassment as any, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” 

Sexual Harassment Continues in the Workplace

Sexual harassment continues to be a pervasive workplace problem which permeates both large and small workplaces across North America.

The question is: What are we doing about it?

Take the following quiz to see how well your workplace is doing.

Score one point for each “YES” answer.

  1. Policy: Do you have a written policy that includes a statement of intent to eliminate sexual harassment, a clear definition of different forms of sexual harassment, rights and responsibilities of everyone in the workplace and a statement against reprisals?
  2. Information: Has your written policy been distributed to everyone in the workplace and does everyone know how to get additional information and/or advice?
  3. Procedures: Do you have procedures and timelines for investigating cases including options/choices for informal resolutions?
  4. Confidentiality: Is confidentiality assured for all parties?
  5. Support: Is there a support network for people who have experienced sexual harassment?
  6. Responsibilities: Is there a clear focus on the responsibility of managers and supervisors to ensure that staff understand and respect the policy?
  7. Training: Is training provided for all management and staff that addresses legal rights and responsibilities?
  8. Integration: Is the prevention of sexual harassment linked to other employment equity issues and is it linked into supervisory and management training?
  9. Commitment: Is there a demonstration of senior management commitment to preventing sexual harassment?
  10. Monitoring and Review: Are there mechanisms to monitor implementation, review policy and procedures, and ensure a high level of awareness and compliance?

How did you do? ….because the numbers tell the whole story.

  • If you scored 9 or 10: Well Done!  Keep up the great work.
  • If you scored 6 to 8: You are getting there….but you are not there yet.
  • If you scored 1 to 5: You have a lot of work ahead and probably have a huge compliance problem.

It is those organizations with low scores that results in headlines like those in the Cosmopolitan survey.

Angus Reid Poll and Sexual Harassment

The polling firm Angus Reid was commissioned in late 2014 to conduct a similar survey and discovered that just over a quarter of Canadians have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

To take firm action on this problem in the province of Ontario is a brand new program recently launched by Premier Kathryn Wynne called: It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan To Stop Sexual Violence And Harassment. 

You can download a copy of the 40-page report here:

The program is aimed at doing something about those Angus Reid statistics.

  • 28% of Canadians have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace 
  • Women were more than three times as likely to experience harassment (43% to 12%) than men 
  • 25% of Canadians who reported sexual harassment at work found management “unresponsive and dismissive” 
  • 48% of people who had been harassed experienced 2 to 5 instances 
  • 28% of people who had been harassed experienced more than 5 instances 
  • 24% of Canadians who reported sexual harassment at work experienced it within the last 2 years. 

I could go on, but you can plainly see that The Numbers Tell The Whole Story.

So, let’s go back to the quiz and you be the change that’s needed to get your workplace to a 10!

Be safe in 2015.