Story at a glance

  • A recent study by Workhuman shows that women’s sexual harassment claims are taken less seriously than men’s in the workplace.
  • At least a third of workers say they don't trust their human resources department, reflected in low numbers of people reporting workplace harassment.
  • The findings came out ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The Friday before social media was flooded with messages for #InternationalWomensDay, a new report showed that sexism in the workplace is not yet a thing of the past. 

A Workhuman report found that women’s workplace sexual harassment claims are taken less seriously than men’s. Out of the 47 percent of women surveyed who reported the harassment, only 71 percent of their claims were investigated; out of the 66 percent of men who reported the harassment, 88 percent of their claims were investigated.

“That paints a pretty dire picture of the important role [the Human Resources department] has to play,” said Dr. Greg Stevens, one of the report’s authors. 

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The report also found that about one-third of workers don’t trust their human resources (HR) department, a mistrust that is also reflected in the low numbers of people reporting harassment. 

And the perpetrators aren't always the opposite gender. In fact, 71 percent of men who said they've been sexually harassed reported that it came from other men. Of 43 percent of LGBTQ+ workers who have been sexually harassed at work, 69 percent said the perpetrator was the same sex. 

“What stood out to us was the multidimensionality of discrimination,” said Stevens. “It’s usually not one or the other, but a lot of folks have been discriminated for multiple [parts of their identity].”

Age was the most reported reason for discrimination at work, and not just by seniors. Workers between the ages of 18 and 24 are most likely to feel discriminated against because of age, the report found. Nearly half the workers who have a mental health condition said they've felt discriminated against because of it, while 13 percent of all workers say they've been discriminated against based on their political beliefs. Among women, sexual harassment isn't the only problem. Another 36 percent of women reported being passed over for a job opportunity because they were pregnant.  

These findings show that HR departments are not doing their job, Stevens said, of creating comfortable workplaces and a culture of gratitude. 

“Transparency is really becoming one of those hot-button topics for organizations particularly around pay equity,” he said. “When those things are public and transparent, we see the rates of people feeling they’re paid fairly increase [among] both women and men.”

Not only does trust in their leaders make employees more effective, but it also makes them more likely to stay. The study also found that 1 in 5 employees is looking for a new job at any given time, so if companies want to reduce turnover, they might want to start by looking at their HR department. 

Published on Mar 09, 2020