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Gender Discrimination study

New Study Raises Concern About Attitudes Towards Gender Discrimination at Work

Posted June 3, 2019 By Anni Irish

Within the last two years, the #MeToo movement has helped shed light on the vast number of people who have experienced sexual harassment and gender discrimination. But despite the increased cultural scrutiny, new research shows that many are turning a blind eye to discrimination at work.

A study by Randstad found a shocking number of employees still possess an ambivalent attitude towards gender discrimination and harassment. Randstad’s survey found that 51% of men and women they surveyed said they knew a woman who had been sexually harassed at work. However, 50% of those people said they had not spoken up when they witnessed a coworker make an inappropriate comment.

“Despite the serious conversations we’re having around gender in the #MeToo era, our data shows most workers are not as alarmed about these issues as we might think,” said Audra Jenkins, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Randstad North America. “The exceptions appear to be Millennials as well as minorities, who were more likely to recognize and report gender discrimination.”

More than half of the survey respondents said they were unsure of what they could do to make their work environments more equitable. Turning the tide on this attitude of apathy will require employers to renew their efforts in fighting discrimination and harassment. Here’s what you can do to create an environment where employees speak up.

Create More Inclusive Work Spaces

One contributing factor in this has to do with people who are in positions of power. Many women and ethnic minorities are still overwhelmingly underrepresented across many spheres of business. Having more inclusive hiring practices, particularly at the executive level, could greatly impact the larger culture of businesses and in turn, help to create a safer work space.

“There are fewer claims of sex discrimination and incidents of sexual harassment when women are in management roles,” says employment law attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com David Reischer.

A more inclusive workplace can create fewer problems, happier employees, and allows people of all backgrounds and gender identifications the chance to climb the corporate ladder.

Create a Culture Where People Speak Up

While there has been a more frank conversation about gender discrimination within the media, many places of work are still struggling when it comes to how to handle this very pressing issue.

“Employees need to know that it is the expectation that they report unacceptable behavior, and that the company will actually follow up on their complaint. Making it easy for individuals to report incidents so that they don’t necessarily have to be seen going into the boss’s office such as online forms or a third party hotline are two options that can help promote reporting,” says Jana Tulloch of Tulloch Consulting.

Other efforts such as making information about sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination more apparent in employee handbooks, having notices of politics placed in plain view in the workplace, as well as reporting any incidents to a supervisor and/or HR can help improve a company’s conditions over time.


Attend Gender-Based Discrimination and Harassment Training

One way to empower yourself and your other coworkers is with discrimination and harassment training. While some level of training is mandatory for most employers, 51% of respondents to the Randstad study felt their employers could be doing more to promote gender equality.

Attending a workshop can help shed light on issues of harassment and discrimination and foster empathetic attitudes for those experiencing harassment. It can also help you as an employee learn to recognize what is considered harassment and discrimination and give you tools to combat this problem.

“Any training that is provided should be interactive – meaning one that allows for an opportunity for questions and answers and a real exchange of ideas and concerns. Training should be required on a regular basis – perhaps every year. Training modules should be offered with respect to bystander training, bullying and abusive conduct, and supervisor responsibilities,” said Marta Moakley, employment attorney, HR expert and Legal Editor, XpertHR.

One popular training type is bystander training. Bystander training helps to empower employees of a company to feel responsible for themselves and those around them, and also fosters safe intervention strategies to deal with tense situations. It also helps to promote a fair and safe environment for everyone and is aiding in helping to combat harassment.

Creating Advocates

While sexual harassment and discrimination can be experienced by all gender identities, historically marginalized groups, like women and gender non-binary people, have generally experienced more frequent discrimination. That’s why it’s important for men and others in positions of privilege to stand up against discrimination and harassment.

75% of respondents to the study said that having more men who are willing to be vocal about gender equality will help create more equitable work environments. Yet 46% of men in the survey reported negative views of movements like #MeToo.

Men and other privileged groups can use that privilege to help further the cause of equality by calling out discrimination when they see it. This could be extreme examples like sexual harassment, or even small acts of discrimination like speaking over women in meetings.


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