Sexual harassment, both physical and virtual, has been a stigma long associated with workplaces. According to the National Commission for Women, online harassment spiked five times since the pandemic started, where perpetrators found a new way to breach the privacy of female employees. With virtual and hybrid workplaces becoming a reality, now cyber harassment is becoming widely prevalent and a growing menace across genders.
A recently conducted study on the ‘Changed Awareness of PoSH in the Workplace.’ A total of 400+ working professionals participated in this survey comprising all genders and different age groups. What was disheartening to see was that only 8% of respondents were aware of the policy prior to 2021, and 11% said they’d leave the organisation rather than choose to report sexual harassment. Here are some key findings from the survey:
37% of the respondents, largely women, have experienced sexual harassment at work in some way
● 50% voted unwanted touch as the type of sexual harassment they encountered the most, while almost 45% faced verbal remarks of sexual nature in both physical and virtual workplaces.
● 2% admitted to suffering sexual assault or rape at their workplace.
● 17% of respondents either feared or had no idea of their option to report sexual harassment.
● 63% of the respondents said they had not experienced any kind of sexual harassment at their workplace.
The study also found that as workspaces evolve at a fast pace and traverse beyond physical spaces, there is a need to formulate a clearly defined policy to recognise and address any kind of sexual harassment across platforms. With the rise of the hybrid model of workplaces, there is an urgent need to implement the PoSH act across virtual workplaces to put an end to the growing menace of cyber sexual harassment. A deeper analysis brought some alarming numbers to the front:
● 22% of respondents were not aware of what constitutes virtual sexual harassment.
● 78% of the respondents reported being asked personal questions about social and sexual life on virtual work calls.
● 26% admitted to being subjected to sexually suggestive visuals during virtual calls.
● The survey reported 950 cases of virtual harassment versus 487 incidents of physical harassment at workplaces.
● 25% reported being exposed to sexually suggestive screen share, background, etc.
The study revealed some key points in order to sensitize the PoSH act at workplaces and attain zero tolerance for sexual harassment cases of any type:
● Organisations must conduct more PoSH awareness programs among employees.
● The goal of organizations should be focused on prevention rather than redressal.
● A well-trained IC(Internal Committee) to handle reported cases with sensitivity and confidentiality.