Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem. To address it, we need a systematic, multistage preventive approach, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion. One international response to sexual harassment problems across a range of industries but initially emerging from the entertainment industry was the “#metoo” movement. Within this movement victims of harassment and abuse told their stories through social media and other outlets to raise awareness of this widespread problem and to advocate for new legal protections and societal change.
Anna Michalkiewicz and Marzena Syper-Jedrzejak of the University of Lodz, Poland, describe how they have explored perception of the #metoo movement with regards to in reducing the incidence of sexual harassment. “Our findings show that #metoo may have had such preventive potential but it got ‘diluted’ due to various factors, for example, cultural determinants and lack of systemic solutions,” the team writes. They suggest that because of these limitations the #metoo movement is yet to reach its full potential.
The team’s study considered 122 students finishing their master’s degrees in management studies and readying themselves to enter the job market. They were surveyed about the categorisation of psychosocial hazards – such as sexual harassment – in the workplace that cause stress and other personal problems as opposed to the more familiar physical hazards.
“Effective prevention of [sexual harassment] requires awareness but also motivation and competence to choose and implement in the organisations adequate measures that would effectively change the organisational culture and work conditions,” the team writes. The #metoo movement brought prominence to the issues, but the team suggests that it did not lead to the requisite knowledge and practical competence that would facilitate prevention. They point out that the much-needed social changes cannot come about within a timescale of a few months of campaigning. Cultural changes need more time and a willing media to keep attention focused on the problem and how it might be addressed. There is also a pressing need for changes in the law to be considered to help eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace.
Michalkiewicz, A. and Syper-Jedrzejak, M. (2020) ‘Significance of the #metoo movement for the prevention of sexual harassment as perceived by people entering the job market’, Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.343–361.