Nearly half of Hawaii's workforce claim sexual harassment at work, survey finds
It can be a comment about your body during a meeting... an inappropriate touch at a pau hana... or an unwelcome sexual text message.
These are some examples of what people defined as workplace sexual harassment in a new survey by the Safe Spaces & Workplaces Initiative.
42% of men surveyed say they experienced some kind of gender-related harassment.
For women, it's worse. 52% of those surveyed say they experienced harassment.
Also more likely to be targeted.... workers between the ages of 25 and 34. And those who work in manufacturing, technology, nonprofits and hospitality.
The first-of-its-kind report was commissioned by a nonprofit co-founded by Rachael Wong and Karen Tan, two women who say they experienced sexual harassment as top executives and are making it their mission to encourage honest conversations about a tough topic.
The survey confirmed that -- finding only 18% of those who experienced harassment reported it to their company's HR department.
Among the reasons -- fear of retaliation, shame or just not knowing what harassment means.
"Part of it is just our local culture. You know, we don't see things, we don't bring shame to our family. We don't make waves," says Rachael Wong, Safe Spaces & Workplaces co-founder.
Tan is CEO of Child & Family Service and says she discovered an employee was commenting about her body during teleconferences, but others who witnessed it didn't know it was harassment.
"It's not a joke. It's really about the receiver. And so if they're receiving it in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and when that's okay. And around them needs to be people who say, we support you and we hear you," Tan says. "The silence makes it worse. Be brave and start to share. I think the community is ready to have these conversations."
Conversations that are uncomfortable but can feel more normal with the right framework.
"The survey suggests that employers can reduce the likelihood of harassment if they take it seriously have policies and procedures and conduct training," says Makana Risser Chai, attorney and HR consultant. "I've had employers tell me, well, we don't want to stir up trouble. If you've got trouble, it's it's already there. You want to stir it up. So you can deal with it and prevent harassment from continuing."
Advocates say if you're not ready to report harassment, start by telling someone you trust. But the obligation doesn't rest with just the employee.
Employers should also create internal systems that allow people to make reports anonymously.