Nearly Half Of Working Women Experience Harassment & Many Are Ready To Speak Out

Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images.

Earlier this week, actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance toward him when he was 14 years old. More than 300 women have accused film director James Toback of sexual harassment and assault. Allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein date back to the 1970s.

As allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood continue, so has the national conversation on the topic. Other claims against powerful men proliferate across industries. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 64% of Americans — a new majority — now believe that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. In a new poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 48% of working women in the United States say that they have "personally experienced an unwelcome sexual advance or verbal or physical harassment at work."

"Perhaps as a result of the #MeToo campaign, awareness of sexual harassment is especially high," Fortune reports. "A full 67% of the men surveyed, and 71% of the women, said they believe the practice is widespread. Forty-one percent of the men surveyed said they had witnessed harassment at their office."

Additionally, harassment knows no political party. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, writer Lindy West wrote about the "uncomfortable tension" that conservative, anti-feminist, and apolitical women might experience when seeking refuge from the near-universal experience of sexism in spaces "carved out" by "tedious, troublesome feminists."

As West says, some women might find it empowering to declare that they are "not like those other women" — those mythical bra burners of the 1960s and '70s — but large percentages of woman across political parties and demographics have experienced sexual harassment at work. According to the NBC-WSJ poll, that 46% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans, 55% of women with college degrees, and 40% of women over 55.

"78% of women say that they are now more likely to speak out in the future if they are treated unfairly due to their gender."

Still, there is some indecision over what to do about the problem — and the onus to do something continues to be felt by women.

"Asked if recent press coverage of stories about sexual harassment has made them want to speak out about their own personal experiences, 44% of women agreed. Among young women, that number jumps to a majority — 55%. And nearly eight-in-ten women overall (78%) say that they are now more likely to speak out in the future if they are treated unfairly due to their gender," the report says.

But, mirroring a recent Pew report, which showed that Democrats are far more likely to believe more work needs to be done to promote gender equality, 61% of Democratic men said "they’re now thinking about their own behaviors," compared to 43% of Independents and 44% of Republican men.

One silver lining may be that across parties and gender, more people overall say they feel moved and empowered to act. "Among men, 49% say recent stories about sexual harassment have made them think about their own behavior around women," the report says. "A strong majority of men, 77%, say they are now more likely to speak out if they see a woman treated unfairly."

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