Working in a hostile environment is more damaging than many people realize. If you are lucky enough to have avoided sexual harassment, you may not realize the impact of this unacceptable behavior. Sexual harassment, both obvious and subtle, can take a terrible toll on the health and well-being of its targets. Women are substantially more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment of all types than men. The effects of harassment on women was recently the subject of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Melbourne. The research suggests that covert sexism and harassment, the type that is difficult to prove in a legal setting, is as damaging to a woman’s career and health as the more obvious types of harassment.
Any persistent conduct that is sexist, sexually motivated or sexual and creates a hostile, intimidating or abusive work environment is sexual harassment. When it takes the form of something like sexual assault or quid pro quo demands of sex for continued employment or advancement, it is obvious to any observer that harassment has occurred. It is harder to combat when it is subtle.
When female employees are repeatedly ignored during meetings while male colleagues are heard, that can create the hostile environment necessary for a finding of sexual harassment. A proper work environment would not tolerate this or any other form of sexism, yet research suggests it is far from unusual.
The research is suggesting that sexual harassment in any form carries equal potential to cause damage. It is not true that only extreme harassment can cause extreme harm. Gender equality is not some aspirational goal to be pursued when convenient, it is a necessity to maintain a healthy workforce and to comply with the law.
Source: Medical Daily, “Both Overt And Covert Workplace Sexual Harassment Is Damaging To Women’s Health And Well-Being,” by Kristin Magaldi, 28 August 2015