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Sexual Harassment Researcher Says Most Workplace Training Falls Short

Flickr user David Recordon / (CC x 2.0)

The “Me Too” movement brought attention to the issue of sexual harassment in entertainment. But the problem manifests itself in the sciences as well.

Credit Flickr user David Recordon / (CC x 2.0)

Research shows that sexual harassment is most likely to occur in organizations that tolerate it - and in those dominated by men.

“With both Hollywood and sciences, both of those things often hold,” says Kate Clancy, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois.

She says the most common myth about sexual harassment is that it’s explicitly sexual. What’s more common is “crude behaviors, offensive comments, put-downs, hostility towards people of a certain sex,” Clancy says. “Those kinds of hostile behaviors are much more pervasive.”

And they can be just as harmful. When it comes to addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, Clancy says the most common approaches fall short.

“There is nothing more maddening to me as a sexual harassment researcher than taking sexual harassment training organized by for-profit companies with weird cartoons that are just telling us: don’t sexually harass,” she says. “There’s extensive evidence at this point by researchers showing that type of training doesn’t actually work.”

What actually does work? Clancy says research supports role-playing programs that bring people face-to-face and encourage positive behaviors, rather than focusing on stopping negative ones.

If universities are serious about combating the issue sexual harassment, Clancy says they need to ask themselves: Are we treating victims in a way that’s in line with our values?

“And unfortunately, I don’t think there are many universities that can honestly answer yes to that,” she says.

Copyright 2021 WNIJ Northern Public Radio. To see more, visit WNIJ Northern Public Radio.

Christine Herman