What About All The Industries Where Sexual Harassment Still Isn’t Being Widely Reported?

Just because we're not talking about it yet, doesn't mean it isn't happening...

We Need To Talk About Where Sexual Harassment Isn’t Being Reported

by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Every morning we wake up to the same news, sexual harassment is rife in one particular industry. Hollywood, Parliament, hospitality, basically every fucking place you could ever work ever. You would think that after the #MeToo campaign everyone would be aware that sexual harassment is prevalent in every workplace. But no, the latest ‘news’ were supposed to be shocked by is that it is also rife in the United Nations.

This isn’t to trivialise the sexual misconduct at the UN, where complaints are truly horrifying. Women in that industry are subject to harassment, assault and rape- surrounded by a culture of silence and intimidation that prevents them from reporting it. One UN worked, who had been harassed by her supervisor while working for the World Food Programme said:

‘If you report it, your career is pretty much over, especially if you’re a consultant,

‘It’s like an unsaid thing.’

Another woman who found courage to report her alleged rape lost her job, visa and spent months in hospital due to the trauma. She alleges she was raped by a senior UN staff member working in a remote location and, despite medical evidence and witness testimonies, an internal investigation found insufficient evidence to support her.

All of the accounts are harrowing, and plunge us further into the hopelessness that no industry is safe. It is with that in mind that we become cynical, confused as to why we STILL only expect sexual harassment from certain industries. Are you surprised by this news?

I’m certainly not. What I am surprised by, is the way these industries are treated as if they’re isolated. The news comes out in dribs and drabs, an industry here, a workplace there. We zone in on one particular place, not acknowledging that, actually, there will be plenty of other industries where the same behaviour where the same sort of behaviour is rife, but it's not being reported.

Take Law, for example, where women make up 47% of lawyers in UK law firms but only 33% of partner positions. According to 2017 research by Legal Week, two thirds of female lawyers have experienced sexual harassment at work. In the same study, only 34.5% of female lawyers felt sexual harassment was taken seriously in their firm, with 50% of men surveyed viewing it as a ‘minor problem’ and 25% stating it’s ‘not a problem’ at all.

Then there’s finance, where only 23% of board directors of UK financial services companies are women and even less (14%) are executive committee members. Almost a third of women in asset management have suffered sexual harassment, according to an FTfm poll.

In financial recruitment, it’s supposedly horrific, with one senior female finance recruiter outing it in November last year. She told efinancialcareers, that managers at her former firm would send firm-wide emails about women who had slept with male employees. Also, they would hire young female recruiters on the basis of looks alone. She said:

‘I’d hear them talking among themselves after the interview and they’d be discussing the interviewee’s chest’

According to researchers at the Trades Union Congress, 69% of women in manufacturing report experiencing sexual harassment to an average figure of 52% across all industries (for women of all ages, the figure increases to 63% for women aged 18-24). This study also proved the well-known but unreported fact that BME women are more likely to face a combination of racial and sexual harassment.

Another male led industry? STEM. Women hold 15.5% of jobs, reducing to 9% for engineering, despite STEM jobs making up 46% of the UK’s overall workforce. Tesla made headlines last year after a female engineer accused the company of ignoring her complaints of ‘pervasive harassment’, also paying her less than men in the same position and promoting less qualified men over her. AJ Vandermeyden, told The Guardian that her sexual harasser was protected because he was a ‘high performer’. At Tesla, men hold all chief executive positionsare there are only two women of 30 as vice-presidents. Across the entire STEM field, a 2014 survey by PLOS ONE found that 71% of female staff had been sexually harassed during fieldwork.

Despite the overwhelming statistics, we seem to have tunnel-vision when it comes to sexual harassment. Each industry that is called out is the focus of the moment, all others ignored until one brave person comes out to speak on a wider issue. We're even at the point where we're speculating the next big scandal. Supposedly, it’s medicine.

The NHS is the fifth biggest human organization in the world, and as has been demonstrated, where there are men and women at work, there will be sexual harassment. In fact, in 2016 it was reported that an NHS HR director was awarded £830,000 from an employment tribunal after she was dismissed and harassed for rejecting advances from the NHS trusts chairman. Last year, female NHS ambulance staff told the press they were hounded for sexual favours in return for a promotion. A lot of this behavior was even in front of patients, with students ‘groomed’ for sex, according to the NHS Care Quality Commission.

The student aspect of this is particularly worrying, where young people hopeful to enter into a career in medicine will be seemingly easy targets and find it more difficult to report harassment. This is also the case in academia, where sexual harassment was considered at ‘epidemic levels’ following a 2017 investigation by the Guardian. Oxford University, the highest sought-after educational institution in the UK and seemingly where students are under the most pressure, reported the highest number of allegations against staff by students and staff-on-staff incidents.

Both medicine and academia are primed and ready to be hit by the sexual harassment tsunami that’s coming their way. But will we also pretend to be shocked by that? To some extent, I can understand the shocking nature of the latest UN news. Just like with Westminster, we expect more from our democratically elected representatives. However, where men outweigh women in high powered positions, it has been proven that sexual harassment will likely never be high on the list of priorities.

So why are we ignoring these industries? Are we so aware of the deeply-engrained sexism that it’s not even news, or should we all lie in wait, prepping our surprised expressions when it’s revealed that the NHS has a sexual harassment problem?

To hold the UN to account for sexual harassment should also be to hold every industry to account. If we’re all going to stand up and smite Harvey Weinstein, we should also be smiting the leading figures of fortune 500 companies who are probably all sitting through PR lectures as we speak learning the correct way to evade awkward questions about sexual misconduct. Sexual harassment is everywhere, it’s about time we rain down on every industry, not just the ‘hot’ one of the moment.

Click through to see the best #metoo quotes from the Golden Globes...


Debrief - Best Quotes Golden Globes 2018

Oprah speech Golden Globes1 of 8

Oprah speech Golden Globes

'What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.' Oprah Winfrey

laura dern golden globes2 of 8

laura dern golden globes

'May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture's new north star.'Laura Dern

Elizabeth Moss3 of 8

Elizabeth Moss

'We no longer live in the blank white spaces in the edge of print. We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the story in print and we are the story ourselves.'Elizabeth Moss

Nicole Kidman4 of 8

Nicole Kidman

'Wow, the power of women' Nicole Kidman

Barbara Streisand5 of 8

Barbara Streisand

'Truth is powerful. And in a really good film, we recognize the truth about ourselves, about others. And it's so powerful that it can even change peoples minds, touch people's hearts and ultimately even change society itself.'Barbra Streisand

Oprah golden globes6 of 8

Oprah golden globes

'I want all the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon.'Oprah Winfrey

Viola Davis7 of 8

Viola Davis

'There's no prerequisite for worthiness. You are born being worthy.'Viola Davis

reese golden globes8 of 8

reese golden globes

'I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year and spoke up about abuse and harassment. You are so brave and hopefully, shows like this, more will be made, so people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse… time is up. We see you. We hear you. And we will tell your stories.'Reese Witherspoon

**What Does It Mean To Be A Woman In 2017? **

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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