Now unless you’ve been living under a rock or you don’t do social media then you’ll have seen the #MeToo campaign pretty much everywhere. From glitzy award ceremonies like the Oscars and the Baftas, to online and newspaper articles and of course on places like Twitter and Facebook.
And although it was born out of the allegations made against renowned Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, sadly it pans out that it’s an issue that doesn’t just affect actresses and celebrities.
Sexual harassment aimed at anyone, in any place at any time is not only wrong, it’s a criminal offence and many victims choose to stay silent rather than admit they’ve been a victim. In fact a new study by Vitalsmarts of more than 1,100 people found that while nearly 3 out of 4 say the movement has inspired them to speak up in the future if they witness or experience harassment, when it comes to actually blowing a whistle, only 34 percent are willing to address unwanted behavior when they experience it or see it.
The study also found that 48 percent of the men who took party in the study say they’ve done something in the past that might be labeled as sexual harassment or misconduct today and 18 percent wish they could apologize for past behavior. And yet, since #MeToo began,only 9 percent of men have actually spoken up and admitted to some kind of sexual misconduct.
3 Factors that have the greatest impact on conduct are:
- Confidence in the system. Witnessing tangible changes at work that increase confidence the system will respond appropriately when people speak up about harassment. (22 percent agree)
- Additional workplace training. Learning skills for how to speak up about past or current abuses in the workplace (beyond traditional sexual harassment training). (20 percent agree)
- A plan or precedent for speaking up. Having an idea of what to do if they see or experience sexual harassment. (45 percent agree)
What can companies do to address the issue of harassment in the workplace?
- Organizations need to provide training that goes beyond traditional harassment courses.
- Organizations need to make changes that increase confidence in how sexual harassment and misconduct is handled.
Emily Gregory, VP of Product Development at VitalSmarts, who was part of the research team says:
It’s clear, #MeToo is generally supported and has created positive momentum in victim’s willingness to speak up. However, without action or support from corporate America, #MeToo has had little impact on actual behavior in the workplace. To turn #MeToo from a moment into a movement, this needs to change and change quickly.
We applaud #MeToo. But let’s not overlook what social science has taught us: new social norms require new skills and systems, not just new attitudes. We’re at the beginning of a positive and long-awaited shift in society and the workplace. To cement this movement, it’s time to pass the baton of change from social media to corporate America.”
But not everyone is in support of the #MeToo campaign. The study found that while the majority of respondents (63 percent) believe #MeToo to be a healthy movement, 1 in 5 feel the opposite—that #MeToo is unhealthy. Those who favor the movement feel the awareness it generates is making the workplace safer for victims and potential victims of sexual harassment. While those who view it negatively feel the workplace is less safe for the “potentially accused.” They also think that #MeToo has made it less safe to mentor or coach members of the opposite sex, less safe to admit past or present harm and less safe to express genuine romantic interest in the workplace.
While #MeToo has started a sea change in attitudes towards sexual harassment, in order for real change to occur in the workplace, organizations needs to provide skills, increase confidence and monitor a knee-jerk overreaction that has the potential to limit opportunity for women.