Sexual harassment survey reveals problems in P.E.I.'s workplaces

·3 min read
More than one thousand people who responded to the survey said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment. (Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock - image credit)
More than one thousand people who responded to the survey said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment. (Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock - image credit)

The results of a new survey released Tuesday highlight just how widespread of a problem sexual harassment in the workplace is on P.E.I.

"Workplace sexual harassment on P.E.I. is quite similar to workplace sexual harassment in other places in Canada and the world," said Laura Bird, the project manager with Shift, an initiative of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission hoping to change workplace culture.

"It happens to both people who identify as male as well as people who identify as female."

Bird defines sexual harassment as any unwanted or unwelcomed words, comments or behaviour of a sexual nature. That also includes online chat boxes, emails and more.

"Usually the harasser would know or ought to know that it could have a negative impact on the target or on the workplace," she said.

'We definitely have an issue'

More than 1,600 people filled out the questionnaire over August and September this year. Of those who responded, more than 1,000 said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment.

"It happens more to women than it does to men. If you are disabled, if you are racialized, if you are part of any minority or not in power you are at a higher risk," said Bird.

But the survey also shed light on just how many men deal with the issue. In fact, 330 said they too are impacted.

"One of the stories that was shared was with someone who is a man who had repeated incidents of sexual harassment and didn't want to report it," said Bird.

"They were afraid of not being believed because they thought men didn't get sexually harassed."

Brian Higgins/CBC News
Brian Higgins/CBC News

Although the results show the prevalence of the problem, Bird said there are some encouraging signs.

66 per cent of people who were harassed indicated they did report it to their employer, 84 per cent said their employer did take action and 94 per cent answered that they were satisfied with the actions taken.

On top of that, just over half of the people surveyed said their workplace has a training program in place.

"We definitely have an issue, we know that some workplaces are dealing with it, we know that some workplaces have plans in place," said Bird.

"Yes, it's there. Yes, it exists. The problem is we need more people to actually deal with it."

'Change the workplace culture'

Shift has developed a workplace sexual harassment safety kit to help combat the issue. It includes posters, information on what to look out for to prevent things from happening and directions about how to respond if something does happen.

"You really have to talk to the target," said Bird.

"The target is going to tell you the impact that those words, those actions, those behaviours had on them and then we also need to encourage employers to respond."

For the time being, Bird said Shift will continue to offer in-person training, and give public talks in hopes of pushing the conversation forward.

"We want to change the workplace culture that allows us to talk about [sexual harassment] in the same way we talk about first aid," said Bird.

"Nobody hides an injury at work, and if they do it's dangerous, so we want it to be as comfortable."

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