Call it the Weinstein Effect. In the wake of the now infamous Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement it inspired, more cases of sexual harassment are being reported than ever before. Victims are speaking up, and culture is shifting to one that validates them and holds people accountable for their inappropriate actions. Workplace culture is following suit, because the problem is much too big to ignore.
According to recent studies conducted by both Insights West and Abacus Data, over half of women working in Canada say they have been sexually harassed during their careers. The study used Canada’s labour code definition: “Any conduct, comment, gesture, or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation to any employee; or that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by that employee as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion.”
Although men experience sexual harassment at work too, women tend to be more susceptible to it because they’re more likely to hold lower-paying, lower-authority, and lower-status jobs. While it occurs in every occupation and industry, it’s more common in certain positions, such as
- male-dominated workplaces (the military, policing, construction),
- jobs thought to be “subservient” (healthcare, retail), and
- jobs that occur in isolation (live-in caregivers).
In response to the increase in sexual harassment cases, employers have been cracking down, and many have implemented zero-tolerance policies. Not only does taking sexual harassment seriously prevent employee distress, employers that do not take steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces can face decreased productivity, lower employee morale, increased absenteeism and healthcare costs, and legal expenses.
“The fact that men, in addition to women, are acknowledging that sexual harassment is happening in their own workplaces is important,” says Bruce Anderson, chair of Abacus Data. “With more people talking about the problem, [I hope] society is heading for a ‘new normal.’ ”
Sources: Ontario Human Rights Commission, Insights West, Workplace Safety North, cbc.ca