Dr Ann Olivarius
The results of a new survey out today are deeply concerning and at the same time far from shocking, based on what we know from our clients.
The study by the TUC reveals that more than half (52%) of women in the UK and a staggering 63% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed at work.
And this isn’t just unwelcome jokes and comments being passed off as office banter - physical harassment and assault are frighteningly commonplace.
One woman explained how sexual comments were “a fact of daily working life” adding: “Some of these comments were violent in nature, with the speaker expressing a desire to rape the woman he was talking about.”
Another woman, who described being physically assaulted by a colleague, said: “At each point the harassment was visible and was witnessed by numerous people, colleagues, staff members, and nothing was ever done.
“I felt isolated as if I was somehow in the wrong. Having people say that your attacker just ‘likes’ you after he’s attempted to rape and or murder you messes you up mentally.”
It’s horrifying that this behaviour is still so widespread. Yet we see exactly these problems again and again as we advise women who come to us with problems at work, both in the US and UK. Harassment affects women at every level of business, government and academe, including the board room.
Few women who are sexually harassed report it. They fear they will damage their career prospects, lose their jobs or simply not be believed or taken seriously.
It can feel incredibly daunting to speak up, and often as if you are the only one with the problem, but the reality is that thousands of women are being affected.
In fact, the law provides remedies, which can give women a way to fight back and win. Discrimination is illegal. Good companies want to eliminate it – and those that don’t can be persuaded to by legal action.
The only way to solve this is to shine a light on it, make others aware of it. Don’t suffer in silence.
If you need help or advice, McAllister Olivarius has a long record of supporting women so that they’re treated fairly in the workplace, with respect and equality.