Have you ever felt harassed at work?

Although I don’t like to tag myself as a feminist, sometimes I believe we must react to certain facts and take a stance. This time, I am sick of hearing always the same stories involving a man, a woman, a work place, hierarchy and inappropriate conducts that can easily be qualified as harassment.

On top of salary differences, discrimination linked to age or motherhood and all the other potential reasons for undermining our work positions; women must face inappropriate sexual remarks and behaviors at the workplace on a regular basis. These cases are not enough underlined and discussed publicly.

It strikes me to realize that when you bring the issue up in a conversation, most female immediately react saying that they have experienced, or are experiencing a similar situation at the workplace. I am generally surrounded by high educated women with experience and high responsibilities positions in the private and the public sectors, their stories are all very similar and related to their male colleagues. You would think that these ladies have the necessary tools to avoid/end any molesting behavior but unfortunately you realize that most of these smart and ambitious women continue to be harassed in their working capacities on a regular basis.

Most of the experiences I’ve heard about are not related to any physical aggression but are much more subtle. Nevertheless, these continued conducts can quickly turn an office life into hell. We are talking about remarks on your outfits, compliments on your looks or simply inappropriate remarks, text messages or emails that create an uncomfortable situation. These situations can be traumatic and we shouldn’t be afraid to say that those who face them are victims.

Instinctively, I think that we are all afraid to respond firmly in an attempt to put an end to the situation. Maybe because we fear to see repercussions on our work assignments. This protection instinct is perfectly understandable but does not help to go in the right direction or to create a sound work environment.

Solutions?! I don’t have a magical one. Maybe the first step would be to talk much more openly about these numerous cases. It is important to bring-up situations when man take advantage of their position to try to obtain more than a purely professional relationship with their female colleagues. I am speaking about man because I only hear about the stories of women around but the same applies to the other sex.

There are also other means to react. They might not be risk-less professionally but they have the merit to exist. In the private sector, more and more compliance programs mention personal harassment as a reprehensible practice and push us to speak-up if needed. So if after trying to gently put an end to any annoying behavior you remain unsuccessful, dare to speak-up to your compliance team.

Sadly, we are far from equality in the work environment. On many fronts women must fight harder to obtain equal pay, equal treatment and equal responsibilities despite equal qualifications. On top of that they often face misogynistic behaviors. Unfortunately, politicians are not as vocal and active on this front as they should be and it’s up to us to raise attention and ask for more concrete actions and protection for victims.

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What about you, have you ever felt harassed at the workplace?

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