While the #MeToo movement has gone a long way in starting conversations about workplace sexual harassment, a startling amount of women say they’re still being harassed in the office.
One in three women in white-collar professions have experienced sexual harassment, according to a survey of 3,213 college-educated employees conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation.
Of the women who had been harassed, 72% say it came from a senior member at their job. The highest rate of harassment occurred in the media industry, where two out of every five women had been harassed by a colleague. All generations — baby boomers, Gen X, and millennials — reported facing harassment at equal rates.
Sexual harassment in the workplace became a national topic in 2017 after reports surfaced that producer Harvey Weinstein had engaged in sexual misconduct with at least dozens of women during his career. The reports sparked the #MeToo movement, which led people in industries as diverse as tech, media, and hospitality to speak up about the issue.
Not only do many women experience harassment on the job, the vast majority still do not report bad behavior. National survey data suggests about 5 million people experience sexual harassment on the job each year, yet the US federal and state governments received only 9,200 claims from 2012 to 2016. Research from the University of Michigan even found reporting workplace harassment rarely results in retaliation, and can damage the accuser’s career reputation.
“My view is that harassment and bullying are like cockroaches — you can stamp them out, but they are always going to come back,” Fran Sepler, a workplace consultant, told Quartz.
Some companies fired executives accused of misconduct. More than half of companies reviewed their sexual harassment policies in the wake of the movement, according to a survey by career-consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Additionally, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was established to help low-income individuals pay legal fees for sexual harassment lawsuits.
Still, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, told Business Insider reporter Rich Feloni that workplaces “have a lot more work to do.”
“I think our job right now is to make sure people understand that this movement is expansive, it’s not going anywhere,” Burke said.
Anita Hill, whose 1991 testimony against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas launched a national conversation around sexual harassment at work, recently said at the New York Times New Rules Summit that there’s still much work left to be done to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
Hill said that in the 1990s, sexual harassment was so normalized that many people did not know they could report it. While more people are aware of what constitutes sexual harassment now, workplaces must still make systematic and cultural changes, starting from the top.
“One of the things that we know for sure is that leadership at the top on any issue, in any institution, is what changes the game,” Hill said to the conference audience. “If you want to talk about new rules you can put together all of the new rules that you want to. But if you don’t have leadership behind those rules, they don’t get effective.”