Uncomfortable workplaces: WomanACT survey shows fear of backlash, stigma, and inaction

Violence against women doesn’t just happen at home

TORONTO, Nov. 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new survey from the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WomanACT) released in advance of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, shows safety, stigma, fear of reprisal or termination are reasons many Canadian employees hesitate to report harassment and violence in the workplace.

When asked the top reasons employees would be hesitant to report an unsafe or uncomfortable experience in the workplace, safety topped the list – with one third of employees reporting they would hesitate to report an incident. Women were significantly more likely to be hesitant (41%) than men (25%). See table below.

* The Workplace Culture Safety Survey

Top reasons employees fearful to speak up
Safety (being secure or free from backlash from perpetrator)
Stigma of speaking up28%24%33% 
Past reports have resulted in no action being taken24%21%27% 
Fear it will affect career advancement
Fear of termination
I don’t know who to report it to

“The sad reality is that one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime,” said Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of WomanACT. “Violence against women often extends beyond the home, and when it does, it can extend into the workplace. Domestic violence and sexual harassment affect organizations of all sizes across all sectors.”

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, is a global UN campaign calling for an end to violence against women and girls. It commences on the 25th of November, the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women and finishes on Human Rights Day, the 10th of December.

The Workplace Culture Safety Survey, an Angus Reid study of 964 Canadian employees found that:

  • Four-in-10 Canadian workers (42%) experienced some form of harassment in the workplace. That number was true for 50 per cent of women versus 33 per cent of men.
  • One-in-three employees have felt unsafe or uncomfortable at work. This number was considerably higher for women (41%) than for men (25%).
  • Meanwhile, more than half of employees have witnessed a co-worker being subjected to some form of harassment in the workplace.

Of note, six-in-10 employees would feel more comfortable intervening or reporting incidents of violence or harassment they witness if they had adequate workplace training. This number is higher for women (68%) then man (56%).

Finally, executives, decision makers, managers and HR leaders revealed their thoughts about the hybrid workplace. Three-in-10 leaders said working from the home/hybrid model has made it more difficult to confirm reports of unsafe or uncomfortable experiences in the workplace. Women managers (23%) were less likely to see remote work as an obstacle, versus men (36%).

WomanACT: Creating a culture of safety
WomanACT is supporting Canadian organizations by offering 60-minute sessions called Creating a Culture of Safety: Ending Violence Against Women at Work that teach employee awareness of gender-based violence, bystander interventions, and positive workplace cultures that prevent harassment and violence. ​​To mark the 30th Global 16 Days Campaign, WomanACT invites Canadian companies and organizations to make a bold commitment to eradicate gender-based violence.

WomanACT partners with Uber Canada
WomanACT is also partnering with Uber Canada as part of Uber’s Driving Change Initiative to help tackle gender-based violence.

“Together, WomanACT and Uber Canada have the opportunity to reach millions of drivers and riders to raise awareness, prevent gender-based violence, and promote safety on the Uber platform,” said Laura Miller, Head of Public Policy & Communications at Uber Canada. “We are committed to learning from experts like WomanACT on how we can do more to prevent violence against women and to help keep people safe.”

* About the Workplace Culture Safety Survey
From November 3 to November 5, 2021, an online survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,510 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, the sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. 

About WomanACT
For 30 years, WomanACT (Woman Abuse Council of Toronto) works collaboratively with the Canadian organizations and the Canadian government  to eradicate violence against women through community mobilization, coordination, research, policy and education – all building toward systemic change. WomanACT believes that raising awareness and engaging in national conversations on violence against women is key to getting at the root of this issue. To find out more, visit: https://womanact.ca/

Megan Dunscombe | Consumer & Lifestyle PR Specialist 
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