National Study on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Shows That Firing Perpetrators Doesn’t Solve the Problem

I mean, obviously still fire them, but there's more to be done.

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People have faced sexual harassment in the workplace since the invention of workplaces, yet it is only in the past couple of decades that this kind of misconduct was recognized, let alone named as such. Thanks to the #MeToo Movement, our culture is taking baby steps towards rectifying this pervasive problem. Now, it feels like every week we’re faced with a new movie star, celebrity, or politician exposed as a creep. Internet justice (for better or worse) has been swift to shun those accused, and even IRL justice is catching up to those in power like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. But even as these powerful men are finally facing the consequences of their actions, new reports show that the problem of workplace harassment isn’t simply solved by removing these “bad apples”.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has published an in-depth study on sexual harassment in the workplace, and their findings show that the cultural climate of the workplace is a chief indicator of harassment potential. In a 311-page report, the study posits that when employees believe their workplace takes sexual harassment seriously, it is less likely to happen.

Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan (and one of the authors of the study) said, “It’s not about rooting out the bad apples; we need to focus on the whole barrel. When organizations really cultivate a climate that makes clear it will not tolerate sex harassment, employees are much less likely to engage in sexual harassment.”

The study also found that sexual harassment culture is pervasive in fields dominated by men, namely science, technology, and finance. Any woman on the internet could pretty much tell you that. When the leadership board of any organization lacks women, it lacks the perspective to recognize and address toxic behavior. Those looking for proof of this need to look no further than the sexual discrimination scandals running rampant in Silicon Valley at companies like Uber, Tesla, and countless other companies.

Is it any surprise then, that some of the largest, most profitable tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are so inept when it comes to online harassment and abuse? Or that Nazism, white supremacy, and other hate groups flourish in these digital environments with little to no content oversight? The fish rots from the head, and I can’t help but feel that if more women were in positions of power, TPTB would be more serious about harassment and abuse both online and in the workplace.

(via Huffington Post, image: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.