When former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a million-dollar lawsuit against the network’s chairman, Roger Ailes, she shed light on a serious problem that affects many women in the workplace: sexual harassment.
More women came forward, confessing similar experiences with harassment at Fox News by Ailes and other men at the network. Megyn Kelly wrote in her memoir about how Ailes tried to kiss her and made inappropriate comments about her body when she first started as a reporter. Rudi Bakhtiar confessed to the New York Times that her former colleague at Fox, Brian Wilson, tried to initiate a friends-with-benefits relationship with her.
Sexual harassment is hardly new to the workforce. The American Association of University Women surveyed that only 29 percent of women report sexual harassment and 71 percent do not.
One in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. The worst industries that women experience unwanted attention is in food and service hospitality, retail, and STEM fields.
However, the country did not start having a real dialogue about the issue until Anita Hill testified against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 about his inappropriate comments to her while she was his assistant.
As a result, companies implemented anti-harassment trainings and policies and employers realized that their workplaces suffer from lack of productivity and turnover when there is such vile disrespect.
Reporting harassment is never easy, but in order for women to better protected and more productive at their jobs, it is necessary to report it.
The Stanford Sexual Harassment Policy Office suggests speaking up to the colleague or supervisor that might be acting inappropriately. Do it firmly so that it also resonates more.
Sending a message to the harasser is also recommended; make sure it is professional, descriptively mention the incidents that made you uncomfortable, and make it clear you want the behavior to stop. If it continues, make sure to keep any records, emails, or messages the person sends you, so you have something to show for it later on. Gretchen Carlson made sure to bring her iPhone to record Roger Ailes’s remarks.
After, report it to HR and get support from trustworthy people. If you are fearful your job may be in jeopardy, seek legal counsel. According to Marie Claire, Carlson sought an attorney long before she learned she would be let go at Fox because she knew Ailes might take action against her. Carlson immediately contacted her attorney after being terminated.
No woman should have to deal with this at her work. So if you ever feel uncomfortable or are placed in a precarious situation by a supervisor or colleague: be intentional and speak up, take action and be brave.
What are other ways we can prevent sexual harassment in the workplace? Tweet @issabasco.