The fight against sexual harassment was the hot topic in Hollywood at the Golden Globes Awards, with outspoken and inspiring remarks by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and others. But allegations of bullying or inappropriate behavior by powerful men are still being made almost every day.
Despite widespread outrage, little focus has been given to effective measures that can be taken by employers to reduce the number of cases and improve the workplace environment.
Our guest is journalist Claire Cain Miller, who writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot, a New York Times site that covers policy and economics. She tells us what works and explains the challenges ahead in the fight for gender equality and respect.
A recent survey found that nearly half of women said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work at least once in their careers. A 2015 study revealed that only one-quarter to a third of women who experience sexual harassment report it.
Empower bystanders to act, giving everyone the tools to help prevent harassment. Bystander training is still rare in corporate America, but it has been effectively used in the military and on college campuses. In some cases, direct action may work. One example was Charles Sonder, in the Snackman case, who disrupted a fight on a New York subway train by standing between a couple and loudly eating chips.
Other examples of how to disrupt harassment: Drop a book, ask the victim to come to a conference room or if they want to get coffee. Talk to the victim to make sure she is OK, You might say: “I noticed that happened. Are you alright with that?”
Encourage civility: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission designed a program to create a culture of respect for everyone, such as spotlighting contributions by people who are marginalized. The program also offers helpful things to say in situations when you want to act but don’t know what to do.
Claire Cain Miller says frequent workplace training programs can help. Employees and managers should be encouraged to report harassment. Professor Ian Ayres of Yale Law School has written "information escrows"-- creative and safer ways to help harassment victims who may fear that reporting wrongdoing to harm their careers.
Among other potential solutions: Gender equity with more women in senior executive positions; greater diversity in occupations now dominated by either men or women; generous workplace and family leave policies.