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1 in 4 young women reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of professional consequences

New research from the UK shows that one-quarter of young women are reluctant to report sexual harassment in the workplace because they fear being fired.

1 in 4 young women reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of professional consequences
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A survey conducted in June and July of this year by Populus Data Solutions, for Young Women’s Trust in the UK, sought responses from approximately 2,000 young women aged 18 to 30 in England and Wales, alongside a comparison group of 2,000 young men.

It found that, despite its prevalence, a quarter of young women would be reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of being fired. 

“For young women facing intersecting discrimination this fear is even more pronounced at 30 percent for young black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women and 37 percent for young women with a disability of long-term health condition,” Young Women’s Trust wrote.

It also found that one in five young women say they would be reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of being given fewer hours, and among 18- to 24 year-olds, the percentage was higher, at a quarter of young women.

“Our survey suggested that double the number of young women that have experienced sexual harassment have not reported it to their employer, compared to those that have,” it said.

Young women are facing serious repercussions if they do report, Young Women’s Trust continued.

“These fears are not without foundation: 16 per cent of young women say they ‘know of cases of sexual harassment at work that have been reported and not dealt with properly’, and one in 20 young women reported they have had to change job due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse. Eight per cent of young women say they have been treated less well at work because they rejected sexual advances, it added.

Perhaps even more troubling for employers is that young women report not knowing how to report harassment or challenge employers.

“Young women say their employers are not doing enough to tackle the issue but do not feel able to challenge them, [as] 40 percent of young women say they do not feel able to challenge their employer about sexual harassment, rising to 45 percent for young BAME women, and 46 percent would not feel able to challenge them on gender discrimination. A third of young women say they would not know how to report sexual harassment at work,” it said.

Ultimately, Young Women’s Trust surmised, women in this demographic think that there has been a lot of talk in recent times but not enough action.

“A third of young women say that ‘there has been talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement started’,” it reported.

“Public discussion around sexual harassment has grown enormously, however young women still feel that urgent action is needed, with a third believing there has been ‘no action’ at all. This rises to 38 percent for young women with a disability or long-term health condition.”

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in early 2018, Jerome is admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales and, prior to joining the team in early 2018, he worked in both commercial and governmental legal roles and has worked as a public speaker and consultant to law firms, universities and high schools across the country and internationally. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines self-help book series and is an adjunct lecturer at The University of Western Australia.

Jerome graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry).

You can email Jerome at: [email protected] 

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