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Are Women Less Inclined to Report Harassment In Current Job Climate?

A recent BBC article states that many women are becoming less inclined to report harassment. Citing Deloitte's 2023 annual Women at Work report, the article notes the proportion of women choosing not to report harassment is high and could be growing. Five thousand women across ten countries responded to Deloitte's survey, with 44% saying they experienced harassment, micro-aggressions, or both over the last year. Just 59% of those women shared the incidents with their employer, down from 66% the prior year.

Experts interviewed in the article attribute the decrease in reporting to a mix of fear of retaliation, a sense that the behavior may not be serious enough to complain about, and the "current precarious economic outlook and unsteady labor market." It is concerning because if the economy becomes more uncertain, women will be even less likely to report inappropriate behavior for fear of job security. The more women keep silent, the more it becomes a culture of silence as they advance, again making it more difficult for women trying to advance in their careers. The pandemic has increased challenges at work for women as they endured more job losses than men. In addition, retail and food services positions, jobs held disproportionately by women, are more likely to be impacted by a downturn in the economy. A 2019 paper from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that a woman who reports sexual harassment may alter her "perceived sense of worthiness of promotion." It makes sense that women would feel disinclined to report sexual harassment if concerned about what happens to their jobs. Low-paid workers will be the most vulnerable to repercussions if they report harassment. To encourage reports of inappropriate behavior, Deloitte recommends taking steps to create respectful and inclusive work environments where employees know the organization will take their complaints seriously and address any issues.