One in Three Women Has Been Sexually Harassed at Work, Says Disheartening Survey

We've all been through those painful HR presentations on sexual harassment — you know, the ones that usually feature some type of video made in the '80's about how the practice is wrong and illegal. Despite this issue seemingly like something our feminist foremothers have already conquered, though, a recent survey conducted by Cosmopolitan found that one in three women reported being sexually harassed at work. Sadly, it seems that not much has changed. 

The popular women's magazine recently surveyed over 2,000 women who were employed at least part time in order to arrive at this conclusion. They did more expansive research though, as they asked these women about the types of sexual harassment they faced, in what types of industries they work in, and whether or not they've chosen to report incidents of harassment. The magazine also arranged their findings in an infographic; check out a few of the most significant ones here, and head on over to Cosmo to see the full graphic.

1. Sexual harassment is most common in verbal form.

Despite so much of our work these days taking place through email and other forms of written communication, 81 percent of survey respondents said that sexual harassment they experienced was in the form of verbal comments. It's actually not that surprising, considering that it's a lot easier to cover your tracks when you're relying on he said vs. she said, rather than clear cut words that can be saved and tracked down. 

2. Men are largely the ones doing the harassing, but they can also be victims.

Only 10 percent of respondents reported being harassed by female co-workers, while 75 percent reported being targeted by their male counterparts. Despite this though, 21 percent of sexual harassment victims are men and more likely to be harassed by women, according to a survey from the Associate of Women for Action and Research. Also, the women in this survey were much more likely to be harassed by someone of equal status rather than managers, which is an opposite finding to other statistics; it might suggest that being harassed by a supervisor is more common. 

3. Those in the food and hospitality industry are most likely to be harassed.

42 percent of respondents who were sexually harassed reported being harassed while working in the food and hospitality industry (retail followed as a close second at 36 percent). We've written before about the grossly high levels of harassment experienced while working in restaurants: A whopping 66 percent of all employees are harassed by management, and 80 percent of women are harassed by co-workers and customers. 

4. Women are not reporting instances of harassment.

Despite the laws and relentless HR departments, only 29 percent of women reported the sexual harassment they experienced; furthermore, of those, only 15 percent felt their case was handled fairly. Yikes! My guess is that sexism is a huge culprit of this, as well as the barriers those who are sexually harassed face. One study of college students found that barriers that were present 30 years ago to reporting sexual harassment were still rampant today, with the biggest culprits being shame, confidentiality concerns, and a fear of not being believed.  

5. Level of education doesn't make a difference.

There's this idea that if you are educated, you won't have to experience the sexual harassment you would otherwise in lower-paying industries. Reality is different though, as 45 percent of those who experienced sexual harassment held bachelor's degrees, with a total of 93 percent having at least some college under their belt. 

If you want to learn more about the findings of this survey or see more resulting statistics, head over to Cosmo.

Images: Fotolia; OblongHighwayAgencyCOD NewsroomAudioLuciStore/Flickr

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