[WATCH] Sexual harassment higher among women in management and professionals

EU report shows that women as young as 15 years of age have experienced some form of sexual harassment • 75% of women in management say they have been victims of sexual harassment

Lara Dimitrijevic
Lara Dimitrijevic
Sexual harassment higher among women in management and professionals

Sexual harassment is more commonly experienced by women who have a university degree or are employed in top positions, a report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found.

The report on violence against women and sexual harassment showed that women as young as 15 years of age have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment at work is experienced more often by women in higher positions of employment, the study found. In fact, 75% of women in top management positions and 74% women employed in professional occupations reported being victims of sexual harassment.

This stands in contrast to 44% of women involved in skilled manual work and 41% of women who have never done paid work.

The results were presented by lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic during a conference on sexual harassment.

Of those who responded, only 4% reported the case of sexual harassment to the police, and the same number spoke to an employer or boss about it. Only 1% consulted a lawyer, victim support organisation or trade union representative.

Just over a third (35%) kept the incident to themselves, 28% talked to a friend, and 24% spoke to a family member.

Dimitrijevic recounted the story of a victim of a sexual harassment who was a member of the police force, and felt that she could not report her own boss – emphasisng the fact that even members of law enforcement struggle to follow, report, or enforce the law.

The law defines sexual harassment as an unwelcome act, request or conduct. Spoken words, gestures, or the production, display, or circulation of written words, pictures or other material are all considered forms of sexual harassment.

Workplace harassment is defined as harassment which takes place at place of work, educational establishments, or entities providing training. But Dimitrijevic believes that there are problems with the way this law is written, since it is incomplete.

“The law here is not clear. If I’m using work email, does this constitute or does the person need to be physically present at work?” she asked, explaining that a victim could also be harassed through email. “If my boss sent me an email from home – and hence not technically from work – does this not constitute workplace harassment? It needs to be established.”

Dimitrijevic went on to explain the rights and duties of employers in regards to sexual harassment, saying that employers have the duty to promote a healthy work environment and deal with complaints of sexual harassment. They are encouraged to create a sexual harassment policy at work, she said.

An employer may be liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by one or more of his employees unless all steps have been taken to prevent sexual harassment from taking place, she added.

Although not written in law, it is also the duty of any person witnessing sexual harassment to report it, Dimitrijevic said.

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