Forty years after the original survey was conducted to overwhelming response, Redbook decided to try again, conducting the same survey about sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The results were, unsettlingly, nearly the same.
So, after four decades and little change (though certainly greater awareness) the question is — what do we do to change the chilling statistics?
In 1976 Redbook found that 90 percent of women reported having experienced sexual harassment of some type in the workplace. The publication broke the definition of sexual harassment down into multiple categories: leering or ogling, sexual remarks or teasing, sexual hints or pressures, touching, brushing or pinching, invitations to date, sexual propositions, sexual relations and other forms of sexual harassment. The survey also gave the option, of course, of no sexual harassment at all. In 2016, that number had dropped, but barely, going from 90 percent to 80 percent.
The report also noted that while they broke the types down into categories, it was not uncommon for women to experience more than one "category" of sexual harassment within a single interaction.
For example, they shared a story from Victoria, 29, who works on a TV set.
"I work on a TV set, and I'm often dressed in functional clothing — jeans, sneakers, a sweater. But one day, I was wearing a top that wasn't long enough to cover my butt in the back," she says. "A male crew member — whom I work with every day — came up to me, grabbed my arm, leaned into my ear and said, 'You're lookin' good in those jeans. You really know how to wear 'em.' I didn't know how to respond, so I just walked away." she said.
The original survey was historically significant not only because of the over 9,000 women who responded, but also because it was the first time women opened up about what they were experiencing in such a public, albeit still anonymous, way. However, it is worth noting that both the 9,000+ women who responded to the initial survey and the over 500 women who responded digitally to the second survey conducted in 2016, were both Redbook readers.
In 1976, 92 percent of women said they thought sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem. In 2016? That number has risen to 99 percent.
The similar numbers despite decades of progress in women's rights overall are depressing, but really not all that surprising. If you've been paying attention to the news as of late, it's clear to see that the way women are treated in the workplace is still a highly systemic problem. High profile cases such as Fox News' Gretchen Carlson and Juliet Huddy have been all over the headlines. In the last year alone, the Fox News cases were brought to light as well as serious accusations against massive companies like Kay Jewelers and Zales and Uber.
But it isn't just the fact that these things are still happening in such great numbers that is the issue, according to the report. It's also a matter of how little power women feel they have in the situations.
Today, only 39 percent of women believe that if they brought a sexual harassment incident they experienced to their superiors, the man would be asked to stop. That number is up from 25 percent in 1976 but is still dangerously low for something 80 percent of women have reported experiencing. That means, according to the survey, over half of women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace truly don't believe their harasser would suffer any consequences. Major, major red flag.
The fact that the most popular method of dealing with this harassment, both back then and today is "ignore it and hope it goes away" speaks volumes about the type of environment we're offering women in today's workforce.
When nearly half the women who responded to the survey said either they or a woman they know has quit or been fired because of a sexual harassment incident they endured, there's no denying the tangible, terrible impact this issue has on women when it comes to career retention and advancement.
Unfortunately, increased awareness seems to be doing little for the issue. So, what can women do? We can keep speaking up when things are happening to us, but also when we see things happening to others. We can continue to push for stricter standards and work toward inclusive, safe environments so women can achieve the career goals they've worked so hard for without worrying there might be an asterisk attached to the offer when they get to the top. And hopefully, in another 40 years the results of the survey can be dramatically different.
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