Sexual harassment of women in the workplace

Otto, Marinda (1997-03)

Dissertations (Ph. D.) -- University of Stellenbosch, 1997.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Sexual harassment is a serious problem for many working women and research has proven beyond doubt that sexual harassment at work is not an isolated phenomenon. On the contrary, it is clear that for many women sexual harassment is an unpleasant and unavoidable part of their working lives. Sexual harassment pollutes the working environment and can have a devastating effect upon the health, confidence, morale and performance of those affected by it. The anxiety and stress produced by sexual harassment commonly lead to those subjected to it taking time off work due to sickness, being less efficient at work, or leaving their job to seek work elsewhere. There are also adverse· consequences arising from sexual harassment for employers. It has a direct impact on the profitability of the enterprise where staff take sick leave or resign their posts because of sexual harassment, and on the economic efficiency of the enterprise where employees' productivity is reduced by having to work in a climate in which individuals' integrity is not respected. As a first step in showing management's concern and their· commitment to dealing with the problem of sexual harassment, employers should issue a policy statement which expressly states that all employees have a right to be treated with dignity, that sexual harassment at work will not be permitted or condoned and that employees have a right to complain about it should it occur. An important means of ensuring that sexual harassment does not occur and that if it does occur, the problem is resolved efficiently is through the provision of training. Such training should aim to identify the factors which contribute to a working environment free of sexual harassment and to familiarise participants with their responsibilities under the employer's policy. The development of clear and precise procedures to deal with sexual harassment once it has occurred is of great importance. The procedures should ensure the resolution of problems in an efficient and effective manner. Both informal and formal methods of resolving problems should be available. The exploratory study showed that men and women recognised the more serious forms of sexual harassment as such, but there was less consensus and a great deal of ambivalence in employees' use of the term sexual harassment on the less serious, but decidedly more common, interactions. Concerning men and women's attitudes towards women in general, women in the workplace, sexual harassment and sexual experiences at work, there do exist some significant differences. The major study led to the following findings: The percentage of female employees who have encountered sexual harassment .. accumulated to 55,44 percent. Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions, unwanted sexually suggestive looks or gestures, and unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching were the most frequently experienced forms of sexual harassment. The alleged harassers were described as men in the age group 30 to 49 years, married, with a qualification of standard 9 to.1 0 and they were perceived as being of average attractiveness. With regard to women's reactions to sexual harassment, objecting was found to be the most frequently used response, followed by the option to avoid the harasser and thereafter to ignore the behaviour. Reasons given for not reporting these incidents are that they did not think it was serious enough, they did not want to make a fuss, and they saw no real need to report it. Among the emotional responses that harassment elicits, anger was experienced the most, followed by embarrassment, disgust and insult. The psychological and physical reactions included. experiencing tension, feeling irritated and . depressed, a sense of powerlessness and fear and anxiety. It does not seem that these experiences interfere too much with the work situation. It did cause women to be less friendly and affected the way they relate to other people. Eventually this will have a definite impact on the workplace, the people's productivity and ultimately the profitability of the company.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Seksuele teistering is In ernstige probleem vir baie werkende vroue en navorsing het sonder twyfel bewys dat seksuele teistering by die werk nie 'n geisoleerde verskynsel is nie. Inteendeel, seksuele teistering is vir baie vroue 'n onplesierige en onvoorkombare deel van hul werkende lewe. Seksuele teistering besoedel die werkomgewing en kan 'n verwoestende effek he op die gesondheid, vertroue, moreel en prestasie van die wat daardeur geraak word. Die angs en stres wat deur seksuele teistering veroorsaak word, lei dikwels daartoe dat vroue afwesig is weens siekte, dat hulle minder doeltreffend is by die werk, of dat hulle hul werk verlaat om ander werk te soek. Daar is ook negatiewe gevolge vir werkgewers. Waar werknemers siekverlof neem of bedank as gevolg van seksuele teistering, het dit In direkte impak op die winsgewendheid van die onderneming en die ekonomiese doeltreffendheid word oak benadeel, wanneer werknemers se produktiwiteit afneem omdat hulle in 'n klimaat moet werk waar hul integriteit nie gerespekteer word nie. Die eerstestap wat werkgewerskan neem am hul steun en toegewydheid aan die probleem te demonstreer, is om 'n beleid te ontwikkel waarin hulle dit duidelik stel dat aile werknemers die reg het am met waardigheid behandel te word, dat seksuele teistering by die werk ontoelaatbaar is en dat werknemers die reg het om 'n klagte in te dien sou dit met hulle gebeur. 'n Ander metode of te voorkom dat seksuele teistering plaasvind, of dat wanneer dit plaasvind, dit doeltreffend opgelos kan word, is deur middel van opleiding. Hierdie opleiding moet poog om die faktore te identifiseer wat bydra tot 'n werkomgewing vry van seksuele teistering en om· deelnemers vertroud te maak met hul verantwoordelikhede volgens die onderneming se beleid. Die ontwikkeling van duidelike en presiese prosedures om seksuele teistering te hanteer is uiters belangrik. Hierdie prosedures moet verseker dat probleme effektief en doeltreffend opgelos word. Formele sowel as informele prosedures moet beskikbaar wees. Die verkennende studie het bewys dat mans en vrouens die ernstiger vorme van seksuele teistering wei erken, maar daar was minder konsensus en baie dubbelsinnigheid in terme van die minder ernstige, maar meer algemene, interaksies. Wat mans en vrouens se houdings ten opsigte van vroue in die algemeen, vroue in die werkplek, seksuele teistering en seksuele ervaringe by die werk betref, was daar wei beduidende verskille. Die bevindinge van die hoofstudie is soos volg: Ongeveer 55,44 persent van aile vroue het al een of ander vorm van seksuele teistering ervaar. Ongevraagde seksuele spot, grappe, aanmerking en vrae, ongevraagde seksuele suggestiewe kyke of gebare, en ongevraagde opsetlike aanraking, oorleun en knype is die tipes teistering wat die meeste ervaar is. Die vermeende teisteraar is beskryf as 'n man in die ouderdomsgroep 30 tot 49, getroud, met 'n kwalifikasie van standerd 9 tot 10 en hy is van gemiddelde aantreklikheid. Ten opsigte van die reaksie van vroue jeens seksuele teistering, was die mees algemene respons om beswaar te maak, gevolg deur vermyding van die teisteraar en om die gedrag te ignoreer. Die redes wat vroue gee waarom hulle nie die gedrag aanmeld nie, is dat hulle dink dit is nie ernstig genoeg nie, hulle wou nie moeilikheid maak nie en het nie die nodigheid gesien om dit te rapporteer nie. Die emosionele reaksies wat seksuele teistering uitlok, sluit in woede, gevolg deur verleentheid, walging en belediging. Die sielkundige en fisiese reaksies sluit in spanning, ge'irriteerdheid, depressie, 'n gevoel van magteloosheid en vrees en angs. Dit wil voor-kom of die ervaringe nie te veelinmeng met die werksituasie nie. Dit veroorsaak wei dat vroue minder vriendelik is by die werk en dit be'invloed die manier waarop hulle met ander mense omgaan. Uiteindelik sal seksuele teistering wei 'n definitiewe impak he op die werkplek,die werknemers se produktiwiteit en die winsgewendheid van die onderneming.

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