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Exclusive data reveals the stark reality for women at work in the #MeToo era

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
A woman looks at a smart phone as people work. Photo: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg

Half of women have experienced harassment, bullying or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and have not reported it, according to exclusive data sent to Yahoo Finance UK.

The Equality Group, an organisation that helps companies attract, retain and develop diverse talent, commissioned nationally representative research, recognised by the British Polling Council. It polled 2,000 UK adults in March and also found that 34% of women “are confused as to whether incidents that made them feel uncomfortable in the workplace should have been reported.”

Alarmingly, nearly half of UK workplaces have no measures in place to deal with issues such as harassment/bullying/inappropriate behaviour, says the data. Other findings showed that 34% of women don’t want to report incidents at work because they are worried that it will negatively impact their career progression or create an uncomfortable working environment.

The #MeToo movement was originally established in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke to promote “empowerment through empathy” for women of colour and the underprivileged who experienced sexual abuse. But it was in 2017 that movement exploded, following the raft of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein that unveiled a series of sexual assaults. The #MeToo movement then led to a global callout of sexual harassment and sexual assault across all industries, beyond just the entertainment sector, such as fashion, finance, and politics.

“This data is a timely reminder of the need for more inclusive and positive workplace cultures. As a society, we should be striving to stamp out harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace by creating and implementing positive policies,” said Hephzi Pemberton, founder of Equality Group to Yahoo Finance UK.

“While the situation has almost certainly improved, even in the last 18 months since the popularisation of the #MeToo movement, there are still a number of steps that workplaces need to take to improve their working culture. Bringing in diverse talent at senior levels, in terms of women and BAME professionals, to bring new ideas to boards and leadership teams across the country can undoubtedly change working cultures for the better.”

The Equality Group pointed out that “the role of men in providing a solution to #MeToo has typically been removed from the conversation,” and judging by the data, that has resulted in “a lack of awareness and education” and it has “not only the issue becoming more prevalent for over a fifth of the workforce, but moreover, a means to an end becoming an overly challenging issue for workplace decision makers to solve.”

The data showed that nearly half of the UK workforce feel men should be more involved in providing a practical solution for the issues raised in the #MeToo movement and 31% of Brits feel their workplace has become worse, since the rise of the #MeToo movement, in addressing and resolving issues of workplace harassment/bullying/inappropriate behaviours.