Recent high profile events in the US entertainment industry and closer to home in the UK’s political world have raised an uncomfortable awareness that inappropriate behaviour towards women is still prevalent in our culture and is tolerated in many organisations, yet most of us think it’s less widespread than it used to be.
In fact, in a survey carried out by Opinium Research, 20% of women and 7% of men say they have been subjected to sexual harassment in their workplace. We also know that over half of all inappropriate advances aren’t reported. The main reasons are that people feel intimidated, they often don’t see any action being taken by management – or that the complaint isn’t even acknowledged.
How do you think your organisation would respond if you raised an issue around inappropriate behaviour? Would you have the confidence to call it out if it happened to you or you witnessed it? What would you do if a colleague told you they had been subjected to harassment?
None of this is easy, or comfortable – but we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our organisations to do something about it. Changing the perception of what’s appropriate is a step in the right direction. That starts with developing empathy, checking our assumptions about others and changing cultural norms. It takes time and – with the right help and guidance – your organisation too can start the journey to an inclusive, respecting culture.
And the more we become aware of inappropriate behaviour, the more we see it around us. Custom may dictate an acceptance of practices that, when we think about it, can make us feel uncomfortable. Here’s an example: the famous statue of Juliet in Verona. The custom is if you rub Juliet’s breast, you’ll be lucky in love. Tourists flock to have their photo taken with a hand on Juliet’s breast.
Is that fun, an age old tradition, or a practice that’s had its day? What’s your view?