Culture of Sexual Harassment a Global Issue


Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek August 1, 2018

Sexual harassment in the workplace is "widespread and commonplace" in the United Kingdom, according to a six-month study by members of Parliament (MPs), but employers are ignoring the problem and legal protection often is not available.

That country's Women and Equalities Committee urged leaders to raise the issue to the top of the policy agenda and called for employers to stop using nondisclosure agreements, which prevent victims from reporting sexual harassment "and unwanted sexual behavior."

A culture of sexual harassment and similar inappropriate behavior is not limited to the UK. At least 2 billion women have experienced sexual harassment, according to data from the World Health Organization and analysis from Joseph Chamie. Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

The U.S. government has quietly settled dozens of sexual harassment cases involving federal workers in recent years—using taxpayer money—for sexual harassment claims, Politico reported in January.

And there have been reports of businesses whose "frat boy" workplace cultures turned a blind eye to—and, in some cases, encouraged—inappropriate or lewd behavior.

A newly released book, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley (Portfolio, 2018), paints a picture of toxic workplaces that are demeaning to women. A Forbes investigation of Papa John's pizza company found a culture, allegedly fostered by the founder and some high-level executives, that included sexually inappropriate conduct that resulted in at least two confidential settlements.

And six women have accused Les Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS, of sexual misconduct. Dozens more described "an environment of sexual harassment and intimidation at the company," the New Yorker reported. He is being put on temporary leave during an independent investigation of the allegations.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles from its archives and respected news sources on the impact of sexual harassment on workplace culture.  

Study: Groping, Touching and Sexual Assault 'Part of Culture' of British Workplaces 

A highly critical assessment of sexual harassment in the workplace found that groping, touching and sexual assault are part of the culture of British industry.

"Currently, there is little incentive for employers and regulators to take robust action to tackle and prevent unwanted sexual behaviors in the workplace," MPs said in the report.

Sexual Harassment: How It Stands Around the Globe 

In the streets of London, Mumbai, Washington or Lagos, the recent outpouring of stories from women using the #MeToo hashtag and its many iterations has showed the uniformity of the problem—irrespective of country and culture. 

Experts Ranked the Most Dangerous Countries for Women. U.S. Made the Top 10  

The U.S. is the 10th most dangerous country in the world for women, according to a new survey from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and the only Western democracy in the top 10.

The report attributes the inclusion of the U.S. on the list to the rise of the #MeToo movement that has helped uncover the near-ubiquity of sexual harassment. The U.S. and Syria tied for third for the risks women face in terms of sexual violence, harassment and sexual coercion, as well as women's lack of access to justice in cases of rape. 

Vermont Law Takes Aim at Common Legal Practice  

Vermont lawmakers passed an unprecedented piece of anti-sexual harassment legislation. The state became the  first in the country to ban a "no rehire" or "do not darken my door" clause, which prohibits workers who settle discrimination lawsuits from working again for an organization. 

Don't Look! Reports of Netflix's 'No Staring' Rule Raise Harassment Questions  

Netflix employees reportedly are forbidden to look at each other for longer than five seconds under a strict new anti-harassment policy the online streaming service has rolled out, according to news reports. Netflix wouldn't confirm to SHRM Online that such a rule exists, but the story raised the question of anti-harassment policies and training in the wake of the #MeToo movement. 
(SHRM Online)  

[SHRM members-only policy: Harassment: Anti-Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedure]   

Sexual Harassment Prevention Starts with Cultural Change, SHRM CEO Says  

Relying solely on rules, education and training to prevent or address sexual harassment doesn't work, said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

He appeared before the California Legislature's Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response in January. Employers should establish a healthy culture by taking swift action, being transparent, and being practical about people and their relationships with one another, he told lawmakers. (SHRM Online)  

Viewpoint: Confront Sexual Harassment Through a Culture of Mentoring

Place a greater emphasis on commitment to advancing junior men and women to establish a healthy environment where assault, harassment and other negative engagement between genders are not just intolerable but are—in no uncertain terms—not the way things are done "around here." (SHRM Online)   

Workplace Harassment Resources  

Allegations of workplace harassment have swept the working world. To help HR with training, policies and many other aspects of responding to inappropriate behaviors in the workplace, the SHRM created this resource center. (SHRM Online)


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