Experiencing sexual harassment at work has become so commonplace that it’s become easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s, y’know, actually illegal. But a new workplace sexual harassment resource, BetterBrave, not only gives us all a solid reminder of that fact, but also provides a concrete guide of what to do if you experience sexual harassment at work. Workplace harassment may be the norm, but it’s not OK — and anyway, just because something is seen as typical doesn’t mean we have to let it stay typical.
The gears of what would become BetterBrave were set in motion in February, after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published an essay recounting alleged sexism, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination she claims she experienced while working for the tech company. (Then-CEO Travis Kalanick responded at the time by saying that what Fowler said she experienced “is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in” and having Uber’s chief human resources officer “conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations.”) Tammy Cho, who founded marketing and PR analytics startup Encore Alert in 2013 and now works as the head of product design for Meltwater after Meltwater’s 2016 acquisition of Encore Alerts, sent the essay to her colleague Grace Choi, who read it and was equally struck by it.
“Tammy and I discussed this at length the next day,” Choi wrote in a post on Medium about BetterBrave’s origins. “How frustrated we were. How it’s 2017 and we’re still talking about harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Then we slowly opened up about our own experiences facing sexual harassment, discrimination, racism, and everything in between. It was a conversation that made us ask, ‘Why don’t good solutions to sexual harassment already exist?’”
BetterBrave hopes to fill this absence — an absence which, by all rights, shouldn’t exist in the first place, although now that BetterBrave is here, I’m hopeful that it will become a little less pronounced. Cho and Choi teamed up with Annie Shin, a software engineer with whom Cho has been friends since high school, and employment lawyer Devin Coyle and got to work; as Cho put it to the Huffington Post, “It felt like our duty to figure out a way to address this issue.”
According to the website, “During these last few months, we talked to hundreds of people (including, but not limited to targets of harassment, Human Resource departments, founders, investors, and employment lawyers) to understand the full landscape of harassment and translate these findings into a simple, but comprehensive guide on what to do if you experience sexual harassment at work.” With clear, easy-to-parse details about the rights we all have in the workplace, free resources to turn to if you find yourself in need, and concrete advice about what you can do to combat the issue, the guide aims to “[empower] you to ask questions, get advice, and take action.”
As BetterBrave points out, one study conducted by Cosmpolitan in 2015 found that one in three women report having been sexually harassed at work, with 71 percent leaving the incidents unreported — but that’s far from the only study that’s found similar results. In 2016, for example, the Elephant in the Valley survey found that a full 60 percent of women working in the tech industry said they had experienced a coworker making unwanted sexual overtures;what’s more, more than half of them said it had happened more than once, and a majority said the advances came from someone in a position senior to their own.One in three women said they had feared for their safety.
What’s more, a YouGov poll from earlier in 2017 also found that one in three women report having experienced sexual harassment at work. Men also experience sexual harassment at work, although not to quite the same extent; according to the YouGov poll, 15 percent of men say they’ve been sexually harassed at work. And according to recent research from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a whopping 90 percent of transgender workers report having experienced harassment or mistreatment at work in some form.
These facts are many things; intimidating, disheartening, and horrific are the first words that come to mind for me, along with a feeling of enormity that makes it difficult to know exactly what you can do to fight it and make real change in the world. But BetterBrave breaks it all down, bit by bit, starting with learning how to identify what constitutes sexual harassment in the first place and going all the way through exactly what you can do if you experience it — including the stuff your employee handbook may not cover.
The “Definition” page provides not only the legal definitions of harassment, but also examples of what it can look like in practice; the “My Options” page walks you through what happens when you talk to a lawyer about your situation, what you should do after you talk to said lawyer, and why you might want to hold off on going to HR before talking to a lawyer; the “My Rights” page underlines that yes, sexual harassment at work is illegal, and yes, that includes anyone at your workplace retaliating against you for reporting harassment; and the “FAQ” page walks you through everything from what happens during a typical HR investigation to the pros and cons of talking to the press about what you’ve experienced. The “Resources”page currently features a guide to how to document instances of harassment and a contact page that can help you connect with a lawyer if you need one.
BetterBrave is still in progress; the creators are working on a guide for allies, as well, for example, and as Cho noted on Product Hunt, “We’re always looking for feedback on how we can improve and be more helpful. Please feel free to comment below or DM us with your questions, comments, or concerns!” You can contact BetterBrave here.
It’s true that workplace sexual harassment likely won’t be going away entirely anytime soon; as Cho described it to HuffPo, that’s one of the reasons figuring out what to do when you see or experience it can be so difficult, particularly for those who are still early in their professional lives. “You’re young and you have your entire career ahead of you. It’s terrifying. It’s just kind of everywhere,” said Cho.
But resources like BetterBrave are hoping to change that — and,in turn, I have hope that they can. I have hope that we can, too. As BetterBrave puts it, “The more we speak up, the more we can push for change.” And that, my friends, is how you become the change you want to see in the world.
So let's get to work.