Addressing the Exploitation of Working Women: Sexual Harassment

Addressing the Exploitation of Working Women: Sexual Harassment

Key Facts

  • About 140 countries have laws on sexual harassment in the workplace. However, not all are accordant with international standards and recommendations and not implemented and enforced. (World Bank Group)
  • 84% of the 23,532 cases reported to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2019 were written by women.
  • 71% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment at least once doing their job. 44% of it comes from someone in the management or ownership role (One Fair Wage)
  • 76% of tipped workers with subminimum wage experience sexual harassment. (One Fair Wage)
  • About 58 % of women harassed at work don’t file a complaint. (HBR)
  • 7 in 10 disabled women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. (TUC)
  • 23% of women continued experiencing sexual harassment while working from home. (Rights of Women)
  • 41% of women tech founders experience sexual harassment in the workplace (Statista)

Sexual harassment may take two forms:

  1. Quid Pro Quo, when an authority figure offers or suggests job benefits such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued employment – in exchange for some form of sexual behavior 
  2. Making intimidating or humiliating conditions for the victim (Hostile working environment)

Behaviors that lead to sexual harassment include:

  • sexual jokes,
  • suggestive gestures
  • sexually suggestive messages (text, email, or notes)
  • giving unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature, 
  • sexual rumors about an employee,
  • unwanted touching 
  • pressuring someone for dates
  • etc

Effects of Sexual harassment

Victims of sexual harassment may experience significant psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction. In addition, they experience job loss, decreased morale, reduced job satisfaction, broken interpersonal relationships at work.

Absenteeism, low morale, gossip, hatred, stress, and anxiety among staff. Low productivity and a bad reputation.

One of the most common problems that tend to afflict women workers is arguably sexual harassment. With the lack of media attention and the nature of fear and manipulation, sexual harassment towards women workers tend to be unreported. 

Sexual harassment is harmful as well as unlawful. Title VII prohibits sexual or sex-based harassment. It is illegal to sexually harass an individual (Employee or an applicant) solely based on gender. Sexual assault doesn’t always have to be sexual but can also be offensive remarks about gender. Research shows that sexual harassment in workplaces is drive by gender inequality.

The mindset of the content of what constitutes sexual harassment remains ambiguous to this day. Examining the factors that determine a “hostile and unfriendly workplace” may raise a lot of questions. For the lack of justice and vague qualifications of hostile environments, it is difficult for women who wish to prove their claims and provide justice on this sexual harassment issue.

My name is Adinda. I'm 18 years old living in Jakarta, Indonesia. People have questioned me if I consider myself to be a feminist. If being a feminist means that you support equal rights for women and men while recognizing there's still plenty of work to be done, then yes, I'm a feminist. My ultimate inspiration comes from the courageous woman, my mother. Tireless in her efforts to give me role models from Raden Adjeng Kartini to Margaret Thatcher to Meryl Steep. Being a feminist is not just committed to changing negative stereotypes. It's about supporting, uplifting, and empowering other women, which I hope to do through my writings with SHEQUALITY.