Ending Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

Author:Board, Nancy
Position:Feature article

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been around for as long as men and women have been working together. Many employers have "no-tolerance" policies in place as there are legal consequences for companies that fail to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

However, since nearly every U.S. organization--94%--(SHRM, 2018) has a sexual harassment policy, clearly the problem is bigger than policy. EAPs have run training programs for years on the legal aspects of sexual harassment.

Trainings aren't Enough

Do these trainings actually make a difference? Some studies suggest, no. "Training was least effective with people who equated masculinity with power. In other words, the men who were probably more likely to be harassers were the ones who were least likely to benefit [from the training]," said Eden King, a psychologist at Rice University. And the purpose of the training is to reduce harassment to zero! As a result, while researchers say that training is essential, it clearly is not enough.

If employees aren't reporting harassment because it is "unsafe" to do so, for fear of retribution and retaliation, job loss, etc., then a more deepening lack of trust in the organization goes untreated and permeates. To actually prevent harassment, companies need to create a culture in which women are treated as equals and all employees treat one another with respect.

Professor Kim M. Cobb of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is active in helping more women advance in the sciences, said recently, "Theres a big gray zone between legal sexual harassment and a culture of inclusion... In that gradient, real damage is done on a daily basis that changes people s lives and changes people's careers."

Johnny Taylor, President and CEO at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently wrote that, "Cultural change is the most important thing you can do--all of us can do--to make sure that all people in the workplace are respected, valued, and empowered to succeed." Taylor noted that HR and EAP should work together in addressing this issue.

The Power of Power

Since most corporations are led by men, white males in particular, there is an inherent privilege, an established pattern of power that awards men in authority with an ease of operating in the world. For those who abuse this power, (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Steve Wynn, et. al.) the prey often is more vulnerable and has relatively low status and power. It is not unusual for younger, less powerful female employees to be...

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