Few female workers have the courage to move forward with a complaint about sexual harassment, but the #MeToo movement may have changed things.
At least we hope so. Since launching late last year, #MeToo – with roots in the entertainment industry – has women around the world standing in solidarity to denounce sexual harassment and assault that happened in their lives, including the workplace.
Courage to stand up
But for many women, their workplace is a far cry from Hollywood. It always takes courage to stand up to sexual harassment, but many workers fear retaliation if they do so. They may lose their jobs, be demoted or ostracized by co-workers with whom they once enjoyed great relationships.
According to a 2015 survey from Cosmopolitan magazine, one in three women aged 18-34 was sexually harassed at work. This includes verbal harassment, unwanted touches or lewd texts and emails. Roughly 75 percent were targeted by male co-workers, and 38 percent by managers.
It’s about power, and you have it, too
Sexual harassment is about power; the power of an executive, manager or co-worker who threatens you to submit to their demands or face the consequences, including termination and belittlement.
But you must remember that the tables are slowly turning, and the worker has power, too. It just may take a little gumption to follow-through. In all likelihood, you are not the only person to be harassed at your company.
If it’s happening to you, it may be happening to others, and like them, the harassment has affected your job abilities. What should you do if you are being sexually harassed at work?
Document details, learn company policy
There are a number of things, including:
- Document everything related to an incident. This includes the time, the location, and description of the incident, along with any witnesses. Your journal/log should be kept in a safe place such as a purse or briefcase, and entries should be written on your home computer.
- Keep thorough records such as threatening voicemails, emails, texts and other messages from social media that may signify sexual harassment.
- Know your company’s policy on sexual harassment. Study up on it and be prepared when talking with the human resources team. This will show them that you are taking this seriously and know what you are discussing. Write everything down during this meeting, too.
This issue doesn’t seem to go away, and it will continue to take courage to pursue a workplace sexual harassment case. Please stand up, as your voice counts. Everyone wants a work environment that is free of sexual harassment.