Sexual harassment continues to be a problem in Canadian workplaces, and organizations are not doing enough to address it. A 2022 report by the Canadian Labour Congress indicates nearly one in two workers have experienced sexual harassment in the previous two years.
A large part of the problem is how the issue is being viewed. Sexual harassment is a human rights violation, yet too often it is framed as an interpersonal issue. As a result, organizations adopt solutions aimed at addressing individual behaviours, like building out reporting mechanisms or beefing up reprimands. Solutions that frequently fail. Punishing harassers is important, but only doing that means we only remedy sexual harassment one offender at a time.
Unfortunately, this “rotten apples” approach does little to reduce sexual harassment. For one, it overlooks the systemic causes of harassment, such as an organization’s culture and leadership.
It also ignores research showing that the best predictors of harassment are features of the organization, not the harasser. To move the needle on these issues, we need to fundamentally change how organizations deal with workplace sexual harassment.