Allyship is the key to changing the narrative on sexual harassment in the workplace. More specifically, in this blog, male allyship. So, let’s explore how men can support their female colleagues in order to tackle workplace sexual harassment head-on.
In March 2021, a survey conducted by UN Women UK found that 71% of all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, and within that a shocking 97% of the 18-24 age group experiencing unwanted sexual behaviour.
The London Underground is currently sitting at the top of the list for the most probable location for an incident of sexual harassment to take place. A survey conducted by Visible in 2020 reported that 41% of women altered their travel routes and times, and even changed what they wore in a bid to avoid sexual harassment on the London Underground. This would mean that before a female colleague has even made it into work, she has likely experienced some form of sexual harassment. So as a male peer, it should be a priority to ensure that at the very least, the workplace is a safe place for women as it is for men.
Another recent survey revealed that 68% of disabled women reported being sexually harassed in the workplace, in addition to 68% of the LGBTQ+ community experiencing sexual harassment. But surely a professional workplace should be the least likely place to experience sexual harassment, right?
Sadly, wrong. What might be the missing link in this ongoing sexist culture is ignorance about what exactly constitutes sexual harassment. Plus, worryingly, the majority of women do not report harassment incidents as they do not feel that it will amount to change, allowing culprits to continue their unacceptable behaviour – unaware or unsanctioned.
This toxic cycle can be interrupted, however. Here’s how you can do your part:
What can employers do?
- Educate male employees
The beginning of change starts with educating those that are unaware that their words and actions are causing offence. Providing up-to-date training and ongoing positive education on gender discrimination, dismantling bias and proactive allyship are key ways to initiate change.
- Introduce an effective reporting process
An effective and confidential reporting process for incidences of sexual harassment encourages and empowers both victims and witnesses to speak out.
- Outwardly commit to prevention
Women are more likely to come forward if they not only feel confident in cases are being dealt with effectively, but if they are aware of their company’s intentions and actions in preventing sexual harassment – for example through rigorous policies and procedures, company-wide training and employee support programmes.
- Take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment
Emphasising a zero-tolerance to sexual harassment reassures existing and future employees that your organisation is taking sexual harassment cases seriously and that their reports do and will matter. Ensuring all employees are aware of the repercussions of inappropriate behaviour outlines the integrity of your organisation.
- Provide and maintain equal opportunities for women
One of the main issues in the workplace is the clear disparity in progression and salaries between men and women. In April 2021, the government reported a 9% gender pay gap, and although there are many efforts in place to reduce the gap, it is essential that your organisation stands by this objective too.
What can you do as an individual?
- Do you have that one peer who always seems to overstep the line?
Speak up. You might be the person that they take seriously above others. Explain to them why it is not ok.
- Do you know someone who has been or is currently being sexually harassed by someone at work?
Encourage them to report the incident to their superiors.
- Heard degrading ‘banter’ towards women?
Shut it down. There is no place for misogynistic behaviour in our society.
- Have you seen a female colleague in a clearly uncomfortable situation with a male peer?
Don’t ignore it, step in.
- Are you guilty of overstepping the line yourself?
Don’t shy away from your mistakes – there is never a time like the present to rectify wrong-doings and to become a better person.
In a highly progressive, ever-changing world, it can be difficult to understand what is the right and the wrong thing to say and do. What we can all agree on however is that it is never ok to make someone feel undermined, intimidated or humiliated in any way; respect for others is what should and always remain paramount. By consistently challenging inappropriate behaviour, everyone will benefit from a rewarding environment. So don’t ignore it, speak up.
If you are concerned that sexual harassment is occurring in your workplace and are unsure how to go about tackling the situation, our experts at Tell Jane can help – from sexual harassment and allyship training to implementing a confidential reporting hotline and case investigations. Get in touch on email@example.com to find out more.