by Sharon Florentine

Not much has changed since #MeToo

Oct 12, 2018
CareersStaff Management

A new Fairygodboss survey reveals that for women at work, not much has changed since #MeToo. Sexual harassment in the workplace is still a big problem.

3 not reported complaint hr sexual harassment form notebook
Credit: Getty Images

It’s been a year since #MeToo pulled back the veil on the open secret of workplace sexual harassment. And while the movement, as well as #TimesUp, have definitely increased awareness of the myriad ways women (especially non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender women) are discriminated against and oppressed in every industry, not much concrete progress has been made to rectify the problem.

Last year, in 2017, Fairygodboss surveyed 502 women about sexual harassment in the workplace. This year, they asked a few new questions and included responses from an additional 400 women. Sadly, 57 percent of respondents say things have stayed the same for women in the workplace in 2018, while 9 percent say things have gotten worse.

One question in particular asked respondents who indicated they did not report sexual harassment and/or assault why they chose not to report incidents, and I think the answers are telling. In both 2017 and 2018, 52 percent said they didn’t want to “look like a troublemaker,” and 36 percent of 2018 respondents say reporting incidents wouldn’t result in any action. To me, that indicates there’s still little confidence that claims would be taken seriously or that perpetrators would face consequences.

It makes sense, then, that only 39 percent of respondents in 2018 say they believe the increased attention to sexual assault and harassment will help reduce the number of incidents, compared to 43 percent who said it would in 2017. And the percentage of respondents in 2018 who say the increased attention to harassment and assault incidents would help hold perpetrators accountable has also dropped, from 61 percent in 2017 to 58 percent in 2018.

That’s understandable — even if there were penalties, there’s some pretty public examples of just how light those punishments were and are. Louis C.K. forced himself back on stage at a comedy club just five months after retreating from the public eye, to a standing ovation. Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States and received an apology from the president (who, might I remind you, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women) for his “suffering.” Aziz Ansari still has a television show. Matt Lauer has started whispering about a comeback.

How companies can help assault and harassment survivors

What can companies do to help survivors? Respondents say creating clearer, better policies that protect victims (68 percent of all respondents), creating policies that address perpetrators (64 percent of all respondents), and creating an anonymous helpline for reporting (62 percent of all respondents) would make a difference.

Interestingly, only 30 percent say removing NDAs and forced arbitration clauses (i.e., making it easier for victims to sue for damages) would help.

But 70 percent of 2018 respondents say that #MeToo has had zero impact on their workplace, and 60 percent of those respondents say their workplace has taken no action to improve or update policies or processes. What are they waiting for?

Honestly, I’m with the 48 percent of 2018 respondents who say that celebrity perpetrators should never be able to resume their career, though I’d take it further. No perpetrators of sexual assault and/or harassment should be able to resume their career. Maybe that seems harsh and cynical, but those who destroy others’ lives shouldn’t be let off easy. If such a “zero tolerance” policy were enacted, maybe we’ll see different results next year. Hey, one can dream.