Sexual Harassment in your workplace : 1 year after #MeToo

It’s that time of year again . Those 16 Days of Activism of no violence against women and children.  The campaign  began in 1991 and runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
How naive this now appears to be. One year after the #MeToo movement , every day has turned into an active day of awareness of violence against women and children . It truly is the time for women. Most especially angry women, as Serena Williams taught us at Wimbledon this year. Angry women are the new cool. No longer are women marching  in shame as  victims . Rather they are  loudly screaming  #MeToo in an angry voice.   And the world has no choice but to listen as men are run out of their corporate jobs, pockets full of cash. No one said the system is as yet fair. It’s just beginning to be shaken up.
The theme of the 2018  #16 Days Campaign is “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.” 
I want us to focus on your  world of work and sexual harassment .
I want to know :
 *  How has the #MeToo movement affected you, if at all?
*  Do you have a good understanding of the definition of “Sexual Harassment “?
* Has your company addressed sexual harassment ? If so, how?
* Do you know your companies sexual harassment  polices?
* Has the #MeToo Movement stopped you whispering in the passages about sexual harassment and encouraged you to speak out ?
* Have you reported sexual harassment to your PR  officer at work or academic institution   ?
*Do you think you have a higher chance ob being believed now?
* If you are a board member , company owner, manager, have you introduced or revisited a sexual harassment policy ?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the #MeToo hashtag was used more than 19 million times on Twitter since Milano’s initial tweet, October 2017. That’s more than 55,000 uses of the hashtag per day.
The Pew Research Center interviewed over 4,000 social media users to find out how often they saw sexual harassment-related content online.
Roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. adults who use social media said they regularly see posts that relate to the topic. Twenty-nine percent of that group said a great deal of what they see on the social networking sites is focused on #MeToo. Numbers increase when there is high profile cases reported on in the media , like Brett Kavanaugh.

I am a little cynical at the rate at which change in boardrooms will happen.. unless they are under fire and their hand is forced. After all policy decision makers are overwhelmingly men. We are talking about  culture and environment that breeds toxic masculinity. These are insecure men who refuse to accept NO.  The usual approach has been to blame women and their testimonies are systematically called into question. Perpetrators are seldom held accountable.

 Read  what Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT. has to say about #16days. . She gives  horrific statistics(which are not representative of truth as most women and girls do not report) :  the 2017/18 Victims of Crime Survey  estimates that women experienced 90, 2 percent of the 36 451 incidents of sexual offences committed over the past year.
Then in good faith Ms Hattingh gives a long list of tips for women and children on how to protect themselves from this harassment, abuse, sexual misconduct and violence. And there is where you lost me Ms Hattingh –  There is no mention in any one of your 14 tips , a tip for MEN. No tips on how to  get men to stop harming women.  All you did was regurgitate what society has been telling women and children which is :”you are responsible for your own safety to prevent your own  sexual harassment, abuse, violence and  sexual misconduct”.
Ms Hattingh, you need to get with the program . This old message no longer holds sway.
As a sexuality educator , my way of effecting awareness and change is via education. Let’s educate ourselves  about sexual harassment.
Most often people with least power are victimised , namely vulnerable women, which is primarily women with :
•less education
•low paid service jobs
•racial /ethnic minorities
•previously victimized
•Men dominate in management & women little power
•Few women hold “core” jobs
•People laugh over sexual misbehavior rather than call it out
•Harassed women are ostracized
•Women who complain are demoted, moved to lesser jobs or shifts, fired, raped or further harassed.
•This encourages other women to leave
•Organizations are male dominated, super hierarchical, forgiving of reported bad behavior.
•cultures of aggressive and competitive behavior
•locker room culture
•men don’t recognize when women treated in unfair or sexist manner
•women treated as sexualized objects rather than competent colleagues
• others don’t label their male colleagues behavior as inappropriate
Sexual harassment is any unwanted attention of a sexual nature that takes place in the workplace. It entails performing sexual favours in exchange  for keeping your job or getting  a promotion
Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment:  “quid pro quo” and hostile environment.
Quid pro quo  sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an academic or employment decision depends upon whether the student or employee submits to conduct of a sexual nature.  Quid pro quo sexual harassment also occurs when it is stated or implied that an individual must submit to conduct of a sexual nature in order to participate in an academic program or business deal

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working or learning environment or is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from a University program or activity.

Sexual Harassment  is any kind of sexual behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, including:

  • Touching
  • Unwelcome sexual jokes
  • Unwanted questions about your sex life
  • Whistling
  • Rude gestures
  • Requests for sex
  • Staring at your body in an offensive way.
  • Calling you  a “cock teaser”, “cold” “frigid” is coercive shaming
    Sexual harassment is an unfair labour practice and if it happens to you, you can ask your employer to deal with it.

    You have the right to:

    • A workplace that is free from sexual harassment.
    • Be treated with dignity and respect at work.
    •  Be treated equally, and not to be discriminated against because of race, gender and your HIV status.
    • To report sexual harassment without fear of victimisation (ill-treatment).
    • Have your complaint treated seriously and confidentially.


Begin with managing  it  in an informal manner:

  1.   Be clear and firm with harasser; ask him/her/they to stop
  2. Tell other people -silence will make you vulnerable
  3. Don’t doubt yourself
  4. Don’t ever be alone with this person.
  5. Dont be an enabler- report when you see it happening to your colleagues
Manage it in a formal manner:
  1. Report the matter . Follow company procedures to lay  compliant
  2. Keep records of your complaints
  3. Keep records of all interactions with the harasser
  4. Investigation and disciplinary action
  5. Criminal and civil charges
  6. Dispute resolution – refer to the CCMA.
•Reduce sexual harassment by hiring and promoting more women
•Advertise for women in management
•Create formal mentoring programs for women
•Set up anti-harassment training, but ensure the programs are proven to be effective – include what is sexual harassment, what they can do when they see it and establish grievance processes.
* ensure the harassed woman is nor punished
* Take a strong public stand again harassment in the workplace.
*Set up an anonymous reporting mechanism to a third party
* Have  hotline staffed by a neutral party
* Crack down on harassers , even if he is a top performer. Do it publicly as it discourages harassers.
* Create a zero tolerance culture
* Create safer and more inclusive environment
*Begin a #MeToo movement in your company .
For more information about Sexual Harassment, contact me .