More than one in four young women still don’t report sexual harassment in the workplace for fear they would be fired from their employment as a result.
On the second anniversary of the #MeToo moment, when high-profile accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein spurred millions of women to share their everyday experiences of harassment on social media, it seems little has changed for women.
The survey of 4000 18-30 year olds by Young Women’s Trust (YWT) found 25% of women still fear losing their job for speaking out, while 20% said they’d worry about being given fewer hours and a third say they still don’t even know how to go about reporting.
Sophie Walker, chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust, says: “No woman should feel unsafe at work or put up with sexual harassment as something that’s part of the day job – we’ve heard so many testimonies, read so many reports and yet it’s still not mandatory to stop this from happening.”
The findings support those the results of a May 2019 poll by HuffPost UK and BBC Radio 5Live which found just 2% of 20-29 year olds believe #MeToo had positively changed their working environment.
The YWT found fears are even higher among young women of colour and young women with a disability or long-term health condition, with 30% and 37% respectively saying they would fear losing their job if they reported sexual harassment.
The numbers of women experiencing harassment aren’t small – research by the TUC found 63% of young women have been harassed in the course of their work but only 6% of them actually report it to coworkers.
Fears of retribution for reporting are not without foundation: 16% of young women know of colleagues who have reported and the issue has not been dealt with, and 5% say they know women who have had to change jobs as a result.
And 8% say they have been treated less well at work because they have rejected the advances of a male colleague.
The YWT is calling on the government to put a legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment and to reinstate section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which made employers liable for harassment of their employees by a third party.
“We’re calling on the government to make it mandatory for all employers to protect their workers and volunteers from harassment and victimisation,” said Walker.
Young women polled were critical of employers’ efforts to tackle harassment with one in 10 saying they felt “let down” by their employer and a third agreeing with the statement “there has been talk but no action” since the #MeToo movement.
The Women & Equalities Committee recently consulted on possible measures it could take to reduce workplace sexual harassment and make it easier for workers to report issues.