Women in the workforce today have more power than they did in the past, but it is still a struggle to maintain that power and gain any more advantages. Women still face problems in the workplace- disbelief in their abilities, coworkers who won’t listen to them, and worst of all, harassment. The solution seems simple: if a coworker is harassing you, report it to the human resources department. But it’s not always so clear-cut. Some small companies don’t have a human resources department to begin with, leaving female employees to find a way to cope with the harassment on their own. In some cases the person harassing the woman is her boss, which leaves her feeling stuck. When the person you would go to to file a complaint is the one you want to complain against, it makes speaking up intimidating.
When companies do offer a human resources or complaint department, many women don’t feel comfortable actually speaking up. There is a fear of being “that woman”- the woman who overreacts, the woman who can’t take a joke, the woman who is the B-word, and so much more. Many choose not to risk the reputation they have created for themselves in their workplaces to report something that is deemed so commonplace.
That is the problem. Harassment towards women in the workplace is so normalized that it is overlooked by even the women who experience it. 1 in 3 women who are in the workforce have experienced sexual harassment (Huffington Post). That’s roughly 33 women out of 100. The numbers may seem small, but chances are you have a female coworker who has experienced harassment in the workplace and never said a word. Harassment happens so often and has become so common that women don’t feel like they have the right to report to a human resources department. If a woman does report it, oftentimes instead of the person who instigated the act of harassment receiving repercussions, the woman receives them instead. It makes feeling safe in the workplace difficult. And when employees don’t feel comfortable, jobs don’t get done as effectively.
Although the harassment of women in the workplace is normalized now, it does not have to stay this way. There are ways we can change the experiences of women in the workforce. Women who report harassment should be taken with the utmost sincerity, and human resources should always step in when asked to. Women will feel more inclined to trust their employers to take care of the problem if the company actually makes an effort to pursue any complaints made. When it comes to small companies, there should be some kind of higher-up that women can talk to when feeling uncomfortable with their coworkers. That is harder to do, since “Mom&Pop” shops are usually family run. However, if there were a public relations office for local small businesses, the problem could be alleviated.
Women should feel comfortable reporting coworkers who perpetuate harassment towards them without fear of repercussions simply for speaking up. They deserve to feel safe in the career paths that they have chosen.