Gender gap in attitudes toward workplace sexual harassment, survey finds
Main image
Me Too

Men and women have significantly different beliefs as to what constitutes workplace sexual harassment, according to the findings of a new study.

An online survey of 1,200 US office-based employees found that around two-thirds of men (69%) believe suggestive remarks are considered sexual harassment, compared to 92% of women.

Further, 47% of men believe making comments about someone’s gender identity counts as sexual harassment, compared to 73% of women.

As companies and workers prepare for a post-pandemic workplace and the return to physical offices, the report from learning management system TalentLMS and The Purple Campaign, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to ending sexual harassment in the workplace, reveals the importance and benefits of providing employees with sexual harassment training.

Nine out of 10 workers reported that after receiving training they are more aware of how to reported an incident of sexual harassment, while seven out of 10 report training makes them more likely to stay with their company. More than six out of ten said training makes them feel more productive in their role.

Despite a decline in in-person contact due to remote work, incidents of sexual harassment have not disappeared.

More than one in four respondents say they have experienced unwelcome sexual behaviour online, via Zoom or Google Hangouts, text message, email, or internal chat programs, since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the same number of respondents indicated being a witness to an incident of sexual harassment at work and did not take action to address or report it.

“This survey demonstrates that training is a powerful way for employers to reduce instances of sexual harassment by establishing shared norms and improving understanding about the conduct that is acceptable in the workplace,” said Ally Coll, president and co-founder of The Purple Campaign.

“At the same time, the survey responses make it clear that the effectiveness of anti-harassment training depends greatly on the extent to which they are custom-tailored to specific work environments – including, in the covid-19 era, remote work.”

The report’s findings also demonstrate an opportunity to increase the frequency and effectiveness of sexual harassment training programmes.

Nearly 20% of respondents claim they either cannot remember when they received sexual harassment training from their employer or had only received such training once since being hired.  

“There is still a long way to go in educating employers and employees,” said Christina Gialleli, director of people ops at Epignosis, the parent company of TalentLMS.

“With over 75% of women and 85% of men reporting they feel safer at work after having received training, it’s clear that sexual harassment training needs to be a part of every company’s yearly curriculum.”