In a recent The New York Times article, Claire Cain Miller talks about how work environments need to strengthen their initiative against sexual harassment. Often, it’s just left to a once-in-a-blue-moon seminars. These are also geared to simply identifying what sexual harassment is and how the law on it operates. When it comes to how this can be prevented, there’s a lack of company response.
Since sexual harassment is about politics and power struggle, this conversation needs to change. It’s time to recognize how companies can address this issues proactively. Instead of victim-shaming, it can ingrain employee responsibility to create a safe work space. It’s also about recognizing how the certain existing structures create an unsafe work environments for females and even the LGBTQ community.
The article outlines how all this can be reversed with a few steps that employees can also adapt on their own.
#1 Recognizing what a bystander can do
Often, sexual predators test the waters of how far they can go with their abusive ways in front of a witness. At the first signs of inappropriate behavior, a bystander can jump in with a distraction, a simple question, or a factual comment. Calling out how a sex joke isn’t funny can help. Furthermore, a bystander who talks to the perpetrator calmly with questions like “Did you notice that what you did is inappropriate?” helps break the culture of silence. It also helps when one talks to the victim to acknowledge that incident isn’t their fault.
#2 Going for the civil atmosphere
It’s important to note the slight transgressions can lead to bigger problems. Apart from identifying what qualifies as sexual harassment, it’s also vital to take note of civil office behavior. It’s all about knowing when to not interrupt a conversation, to respect one’s personal space, and to give praise when it is due. By encouraging more positive trivial gestures, it creates a better environment where inappropriate actions can be easily spotted.
#3 Having as many trainings as possible
Training on what to do during questionable moment and how to treat people correctly in the workplace should be frequent and interactive. It is also potent when males are involved in the training. Once again, it’s important for both sides to identify what sexual harassment is along with the microtransgressions they commit to promote it.
#4 Aiming for more female promotions
It’s a simple rule: More women in upper management means the office doesn’t become a place where men have all the power. If we take away the very tool in which sexual predators manipulate their victims with, we will be avoiding sexual harassment altogether. It also promotes a sense of equality based on merit and looks past gender or sexual identity.
#5 Allowing people to speak up
Most of the time, women don’t report cases of sexual harassment. It’s no surprise since the very action feels like another form of torture for the victim. The hush-hush tone and the risk of getting some backlash from their abuser is enough to shut them up. But the company can show that it encourages reports to create a better workplace. It also must enforce a fair punishment for abusers. Not all consequences should end up in firing the perpetrator as that will mean less women will speak up. The punishment should be at par with the offense committed.
Art by Lara Intong
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