Sexual harassment in the professional workplace: Behind the research
In February and March of 2018, SourceMedia — an award-winning business information and media company — launched a broad study of the impact and implications of sexual harassment in our reader communities. We launched the study, Sexual Harassment in the Professional Workplace, as the topic was reaching a peak level of prominence in American cultural discourse, driven by the cascading series of high-profile accusations and celebrity ousters that have come to be known as the #MeToo movement.
SourceMedia has a unique vantage from which to conduct such a study. Our mission is to provide executives and aspiring executives with critical coverage and practical information about their industries, which include financial services, accounting and health care. As a result, we are well positioned to pose questions about professional workplace issues and receive insightful answers from a diverse group of men and women.
Our audience communities bear another important characteristic: They speak to us not just as employees but often also as employers — the leaders, founders and owners of their organizations.
Despite the presence of such deeply invested stakeholders in our respondent base, our survey paints a generally unsettling picture. The portion of respondents who have personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, witnessed it happening or are aware of someone else who has experienced it — from inappropriate personal questions to persistent sexual requests — is high: 63% of women and 51% of men. Overall, 15% of all respondents (not including HR) indicate they have been the subject of sexual harassment.
Bright spots include a broadly held — if not necessarily robust — belief that the #MeToo movement could make a positive difference.
Also in this series:
• 10 key findings: Sexual harassment in the professional workplace
• Wealth management fares the worst in broad study of sexual harassment
• Banks wrestle with sense of futility on sexual harassment
• Does Silicon Valley's 'bro culture' pervade IT elsewhere?
• Sexual harassment is a bigger problem than accountants think
• HR’s culture shift: Tackling workplace sexual harassment while navigating legal definitions
• A #MeToo backlash is brewing in banking
• From strip clubs to massages: When clients are sexually inappropriate
About the Study
SourceMedia’s editors, who bring a deep understanding of the professional communities they cover, developed the study in collaboration with the company’s research unit.
The study was conducted online, in February and March of 2018, across all sectors we serve — banking, payments, mortgages, financial advisory, accounting, health care, employee benefits and capital markets (including municipal finance and M&A advising).
These respondents represent the audiences of information brands such as American Banker, National Mortgage News, The Bond Buyer, Accounting Today, Financial Planning, Employee Benefit News and Health Data Management. (We excluded the responses of human resources professionals from most of our top-line analyses below to ensure their specialized understanding of workplace issues did not skew results.)
The participation rate was high, and the engagement level was excellent. More than 3,000 individuals completed the survey. Of the respondents, 64% were men and 36% women; while 34% were upper/executive management, 17% were middle management, 16% were managers/supervisors and 33% were nonmanagement.
The study defined sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct that fell into these categories:
- Inappropriate personal questions, jokes, or innuendo
- Unwanted touching
- Persistent unwelcome requests
- Sexual pictures, posters, etc.
- Suggestive text messages or emails
- Threats of retaliation for not complying with sexual requests
We also encouraged respondents to write their experience with unwelcome sexual behavior in a comment section.
A majority of respondents shared candid verbatim comments — in many cases detailing specific experiences. Many volunteered to be contacted by a reporter for follow-up interviews.
This rich data trove enabled our editors and research analysts to produce a comprehensive package of articles on different aspects of harassment in the professional workplace. These include this overview package, highlighting 10 key findings, and a series of articles drilling down on conditions in specific industry communities.