The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has just concluded a major study on sexual harassment. It offers some interesting new insights relevant to California employers and employees.
According to the study, the strongest predictor of whether sexual harassment will occur (or not) in the workplace is the “organizational climate” of the organization. In other words, preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is not as simple as removing the bad actors. To really confront the problem, organizations need to establish a workplace culture that takes sexual harassment seriously. Sending this message gives employee’s faith that the organization will fairly handle sexual harassment issues which, in turn, deters the bad actors and encourages others to speak up.
The second most potent predictor of sexual harassment, according to the study, is whether men outnumber women at the organization.
The study occurred over a 2-year period and was led by a group of scientists, engineers, doctors, and experts in sexual harassment, law, and psychology. They analyzed peer-reviewed journal articles, surveyed female employees, and did statistical analysis on large samples of survey data from two state university systems. Not surprisingly, the study revealed a massive problem in the sciences, and particularly at U.S. medical schools.
The researchers gave detailed recommendations for eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace, including:
- Make clear what kinds of behaviors are not tolerated — no exceptions
- Make clear what the consequences are for engaging in these bad behaviors
- Be transparent when dealing with accusations and investigations — work with counsel to let employees know as much as possible about the accusations, the findings, and the actions taken
- Conduct anonymous surveys of the workplace periodically to determine the scope of the sexual harassment problem