Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t something that gets swept under the rug anymore. Just take a look at Activision Blizzard’s latest case, where employees banded together to expose an incredibly toxic and misogynistic culture. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Google, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, and more have all come under fire in much of the same way.
Cases may be on the rise, but instances are not. Sexual harassment in the workplace is as prevalent as it ever was, and employees are simply speaking out more often. The rate at which these crimes happen is alarming, especially with the attention give to training and awareness, but the truth is that outdated sexual harassment training simply won’t cut it anymore.
The Scope of Harassment
There’s ample anecdotal evidence and lawsuits to give the public an idea of just how prevalent sexual harassment in the workplace is, but that’s not all. A recent report from Deloitte on women in the workplace in 2021 surveyed women in 10 countries. Over half had experienced a form of harassment or microaggression, such as sexual comments, in the prior year.
Homing in on the United States, a TalentLMS co-study with Purple Campaign saw 29% of workers surveyed experiences unwelcome behavior in their digital work environment. That includes video calls, texts, email, and online platforms.
According to Dimitris Tsingos, CEO of TalentLMS supporter Epignosis, one of the reasons for this ongoing wave of harassment rests with outdated training efforts. Some now 20 years old, the videos and exercises used fail to account for aspects of modern society. Namely, they don’t take the digitalization of the workplace into account.
While it might make sense that words or actions in the real world should translate to the digital landscape, that’s not always the case. Psychological studies that people treat these realms differently, often feeling bolder or that there is a lack of consequence in online interactions. Addressing sexual harassment online could work to reduce instances.
A Lack of Effort
Another issue is that, despite efforts to thwart these instances, all too many areas have failed to adopt training. There are only 17 states that mandate sexual harassment training. Only 11 of those require training in the public sector, and only six care to mandate both public and private entities.
Both outdated efforts and zero effort has led to different attitudes on the subject. Roughly 92% of women think unwanted physical contact counts as harassment, but only 78% of men feel the same. Only 69% of men think suggestive remarks or jokes count, compared to 88% and 86% of women respectively.
Those numbers become worse when gender identity is involved, showing that either no effort or outdated training hasn’t covered the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace. Current studies show that LGBTQ+ women are twice as likely to feel pressured by sexual harassment than men who identify the same.
Even worse, LGBTQ+ women are more likely to experience sexual harassment at work than cis-gendered women and LGBTQ+ men combined. With legal experts like this San Francisco sexual harassment attorney being hired at rapid rates, it’s clear that previous methods of prevention are not working.
These outdated sexual harassment trainings and courses are just that, outdated. They failed to stop harassment then and fail to take various aspects of the modern workplace into account today. If American workplaces are ever going to stop this plague, they need to reinvent their efforts to become proactive.
The goal shouldn’t be a simple video meeting or seminar, then simply reacting after something happens. Instead, companies need to work to stop instanced from happening in the first place. They also need to increase the idea of inclusivity in this training as well as how employees should interact within a digital environment. Until then, more lawsuits are on the horizon.