The recent allegations against US film producer Harvey Weinstein have brought the issue of sexual harassment at work into the global spotlight with an overwhelming number of women across the globe sharing their experiences of inappropriate treatment at the hands of their employers. This has prompted discussion of the obstacles faced by women trying to develop their careers. It is becoming clear that in many sectors there is a culture in the workplace of ignoring or trivialising sexual harassment.
A recent BBC survey, commissioned in the wake of the Weinstein allegations, has found that half of the women interviewed had experienced sexual harassment at work or place of study. The harassment ranged from inappropriate comments to sexual assault with 30% of the women being targeted by a boss or senior manager.
What has emerged over the recent weeks is that simply having a sexual harassment policy in place is not enough to address such a prolific problem in the workplace. Policies will only be effective if they are “lived” and there is a culture that does not ignore the behaviour the policy is designed to prevent. Perhaps now is the time for a shift in emphasis from attempting to avoid a harassment claim, to preventing the harassment occurring in the first instance.