Half Of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed At Work, In ‘Strikingly Similar’ Poll To Last Year

Look around your office, train carriage on the way home or local pub this evening, chances are more than half of the women have been the victim of sexual harassment at work.

A BBC poll released today shows 53% of women have been sexually harassed at work or their place of study.

What with the tide of women coming forward with stories of sexual harassment – both in relation to notorious public figures and on social media using #MeToo – it may seem no surprise that the proportions are this high.

In fact, last August a Trades Union Congress (TUC) report revealed “strikingly similar” results. The poll, which was the largest of its kind to have been conducted, found 52% of women had been sexually harassed at work.

Scarlett Harris, a spokesperson for TUC, told HuffPost UK: “It reinforces what we found a year ago, we had strikingly similar findings.”

There were some differences, however. In 2016, the TUC found 80% of women had not reported, while the BBC poll found 63%.

Within one year this shows more women are coming forward about sexual harassment in the workplace, yet the issue still persists.

Commenting on the findings, Harris laments that “nothing has really changed in workplaces”.

While it’s important for victims to be aware of what to do if they are being sexually harassed at work (more on that here), the government and employers need to step up.

Harris believes it’s up to government to gather data to show the scale of the issue across various industries and working environments.

“It’s a shame we’re relying on companies and trade unions to commission polling. It’s well within the government’s ability to gather serious large scale data on this,” she said.

According to Harris, there is lots more employers can be doing with regards to sexual harassment.

There needs to be clear workplace policies and procedures. Including what will happen if you are found to be sexually harassing someone as well as what you should do if you are experiencing it.

What’s more, this information needs to be widely disseminated: displayed on the intranet and notice boards, as well as being part of training for line managers so they can support their teams. It’s not enough for that knowledge to be in the HR department.

Writing in a blog last year TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady wrote: “How many times do we still hear that sexual harassment in the workplace is just a bit of ‘banter’?

“Let’s be clear – sexual harassment is undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health.

“Victims are often left feeling ashamed and frightened. It has no place in a modern workplace, or in wider society.

“Employers must be clear they have a zero tolerance attitude to sexual harassment and treat any complaint seriously. It’s a scandal that so few women feel their bosses are dealing with the issue properly.”

What we’ve seen in the past few weeks is an increase of women coming forward and whistleblowing their harassers and abusers, what we need now is action.