Report: "it would seem that women feel more able to talk about sexual harassment at work"

In 2017, revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein, who was found guilty of sexual assault and rape in February 2020, kickstarted a new phase of the #MeToo movement. Thousands of people worldwide shared their experiences of sexual assault, bullying, abuse, harassment and misconduct. It's a campaign which has had many consequences - not least in the workplace. 

Christine Cross is Head of Department, Work and Employment Studies and a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at the Kemmy Business School a the University of Limerick. She spoke to The Business on RTÉ Radio 1 about the changes have occurred over the last two years in the workplace because of #MeToo

It has raised a level of consciousness about the issue that was not there before

What do we know about changes in the Irish workplace? "One of the things that's difficult for us is to quantify the impact the #MeToo movement has had on workplaces in Ireland as we have very little data", explains Cross. "But one of the key things is about raising awareness and if we look at complaints to the Workplace Relations Commission, we can see there has been a jump between 2017 and 2018 and between 2018 and 2019. It would seem that women feel more able to talk about sexual harassment at work.

"In the United States, they have done some research and one of their findings is that three quarters of women said they would now be more willing to speak out about sexual harassment than they had been before #MeToo. It has raised a level of consciousness about the issue that was not there before."

From RTÉ Radio 1's Marian Finucane show, Melanie Crowley from law film Mason, Hayes and Curran on the rise in sexual harassment in the workplace complaints

Many companies have taken a proactive approach because of #MeToo. "The movement has been very important from a workplace perspective in terms of encouraging employers to create workplace cultures where women feel more able to speak out and allow men to understand how their behaviour is seen by women. Some of the big US companies have put policies in place which protect the whistleblower and gives them anonymity. If we are going to encourage more women to come forward to talk about sexual harassment, some of these policies are likely to be very useful."

Cross points out that the movement has also had some "unintended consequences". "Around a quarter of men are saying they are avoiding having one-to-one situations with female colleagues at work. That's problematic on so many different fronts but particularly for females who are keen on moving up the career ladder. Some of the other research I have done has talked about the importance of mentoring by senior managers for career advancement."

Hear the discussion in full below


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ