Tips for navigating sexual harassment at your workplace as a woman
Courtesy of Joel Muniz
Some may say that the world is making progress towards equality for women in the workplace (which on the surface level, is true) however, there is still an unfortunate reality in that under the surface, women are still experiencing far more sexual abuse and harassment within the workplace than men.
In the current world, after the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, more women are coming forward about their experiences of enduring sexual harassment and abuse by calling out their male bosses or superiors and refusing to stay silent. This is a substantial and empowering step for women as a whole, however, there is still a lack of conversation on how to navigate situations of sexual harassment at work. How should someone go about coming forward with an experience when they feel uncomfortable? How could someone protect themselves or make the process of coming forward easier?
Know your value and your rights
Understanding the value you hold at your workplace will help you build the confidence that you need to be able to advocate for yourself. This means being aware of how your work contributes to the company in a positive way so that you can develop the strong relationships needed to stand your power. This means being able to identify exactly where you can offer value on a project, conversation or development.
You should also know the company policies and the law when it comes to harassment in the workplace. Educating yourself on both of these things will give you the language and tools to speak about any abuse you may experience with confidence and in a method that works best for you. Many women do not come forward with their experiences because they are unsure of what to say or how to describe what they went through in a legal or well-articulated way. Knowing your company’s policies and region’s laws surrounding the issue will help you navigate an already difficult set of conversations, situations and spaces. It will also allow you to validate yourself and your feelings surrounding what you have gone through.
Courtesy of yan krukau
Face the uncomfortable conversations head on
Although it is not okay to do so, someone may have made a comment out of ignorance or lack of education on how that comment was inappropriate or offensive. Try to stand your ground with the confidence to let these people know that whatever they said is harmful.
That being said, not all experiences are like that. A lot of the time people are very much aware of what they are doing. This can make the conversation about your experience difficult both physically and emotionally. It’s important to go to someone you trust and feel comfortable with when you initially share what you have gone through. That person may be able to support you and make the process of coming forward or recovering a little bit easier.
Build strong relationships
Building relationships in the workplace that are strong and trusting is crucial. If you do go through sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace, these people can act as a support network for you, back you up and validate your emotions and experience.
By having a support network at your job, you may be able to learn about other people’s experiences which may be similar to yours. This will help you know you aren’t alone and gain confidence. It also opens up the opportunity to come forward as a group or have someone there with you when you tell a superior.
Courtesy of Christina Wocintechchat
Stand up for other women when you are aware of misconduct
Lastly, it’s important that you act as a strong force for other women as well. Even if you haven’t experienced what they are going through, it is critical that you stand up for other women in your workplace if you are aware of misconduct taking place. This means supporting them, backing them up and being prepared to assist them with taking action on their terms.
This also applies to backing up other women in their business ideas, work achievements and struggles so that they feel confident in their position at the company. Remember, it can feel very isolating to work in a corporate structure or male-dominated space.