Today’s blog may not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but hopefully it will be a wakeup call to get your workplace on the track to a positive, healthy atmosphere (if it’s not already…).

Sexual Harassment in the workplace is everyone’s business.

After all, it’s a pervasive workplace problem, isn’t it?

You may be thinking, “Well, it was way back when, but it’s 2017, aren’t we more aware of the importance of being respectful?”

With this logic, concern for sexual harassment doesn’t really apply to us now, does it?

Here’s a splash of cold water:

A study released a while ago that had been commissioned by Cosmopolitan Magazine found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 have been sexually harassed at work.

I’ll let that sink in…

“Sexual harassment hasn’t gone away — it’s just taken on new forms,” the article states.

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 social media message (yes, different forms indeed these days…).

So yes, sexual harassment does continue to be a pervasive workplace problem that permeates both large and small workplaces across North America.

But don’t feel completely hopeless. Instead we must ask ourselves: What are we doing about it?

Let’s start by taking the following quiz to see how well your workplace is doing.

Score one point for each “YES” answer:

  • 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?
  • Information: Has your written policy been distributed to everyone in the workplace and does everyone know how to get additional information and/or advice?
  • Procedures: do you have procedures and timelines for investigating cases, including options/choices for informal resolutions?
  • Confidentiality: Is confidentiality assured for all parties?
  • Support: Is there a support network for people who have experienced sexual harassment?
  • Responsibilities: Is there a clear focus on the responsibility of managers and supervisors to ensure that staff understands and respects the policy?
  • Training: Is training provided for all management and staff that addresses legal rights and responsibilities?
  • Integration: Is the prevention of sexual harassment linked to other employment equity issues and is it linked into supervisory and management training?
  • Commitment: Is there a demonstration of senior management commitment to preventing sexual harassment?
  • 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?

If you scored 9 or 10: Well Done!  Keep up the great work.

If you scored 6 to 8: You’re getting there, but you’re not there yet.

If you scored 1 to 5: You have a lot of work ahead and probably have a huge compliance problem.

It’s the organizations with low scores that result in headlines like those in the Cosmopolitan survey.

I’m sorry to say I have another splash of cold water coming your way…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.

I’ll let you have another moment to let that one sink in…

Luckily, there are plans in place to combat these statistics. To take firm action on this problem in the province of Ontario, a new program was launched by Premier Kathryn Wynne called, It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan To Stop Sexual Violence And Harassment.

If you’re interested, you can download a copy of this 40-page report here.

I want to leave you with a few more statistics. I know they’re not pleasant, but they’re extremely important to take into consideration:

  • 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 now that I’ve splashed you with plenty of cold water, where do we start to make change? Well, let’s begin by going back to the quiz. How can you turn those zeros into ones?

Before you know it, you’ll score a perfect ten!