Time to open our eyes to sexual harassment in the workplace


If you are a business leader, there are two questions you should be asking yourself right now about your company:

  1. Is anyone in our company creating a hostile environment for women?
  2. Is our company prepared to handle a sexual harassment complaint from an employee?

For several months, Americans have been increasingly involved in a national conversation about sexual harassment, which has been brought to the forefront by the #MeToo movement. Several men in the film and entertainment industries, politics and the media, have been accused of inappropriate sexual advances on women in the workplace.

However, this is not just a problem in Hollywood, Washington or national media outlets. Sexual harassment is a problem in many of our workplaces in the Milwaukee area, as well.

That point was driven home by the recently announced results of a survey of members of the women’s networking group TEMPO Milwaukee. Of the 97 TEMPO members who responded to the survey, about 68 percent said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The survey defined sexual harassment using the guidelines set out by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

While perhaps not surprising, the survey results are still alarming and disturbing. Some of the comments and stories shared by the women responding to the survey were, quite frankly, nauseating. Check out our story about the survey on page 4 for more details.

“These survey results – and the vivid and shocking examples of harassment our members provided – should serve as a wake-up call to Milwaukee’s business community,” said Jennifer Dirks, president and chief executive officer of TEMPO Milwaukee.

Nobody should have to put up with that type of behavior, particularly in the workplace. It’s time for business leaders to open their eyes and take steps to address, or to be prepared to address, sexual harassment incidents.

Business leaders need to make it clear that sexual harassment is not tolerated in their companies, and that there will be consequences if it occurs. And they need to let their female employees know that if they are the victims of sexual harassment, they can report the incidents without fear of reprisal and the situation will be addressed fairly, but appropriately.

Make sure your workplace is a safe and comfortable environment for all of your employees.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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