We have just concluded a survey in which we sought to understand Zimbabwean employees’ perceptions and opinions about sexual harassment and misconduct. The survey also attempted to quantify the prevalence of sexual harassment in our organisations. There were 793 participants in this survey. 59% of the respondents were male and the rest, (41%) were female.
Sexual harassment can be defined as ‘unwanted verbal, non – verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient’s dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient.’
Summary of key findings
1. Fourteen percent (14%) of the participants indicated that they have been sexually harassed at work.
2. Forty eight percent (48%) of the respondents have witnessed a colleague being sexually harassed at their workplace.
3. Twenty percent (20%) of the participants engage in ‘harmless’ flirting and eleven percent (11%) said they feel their behaviour at their respective workplace encourages flirting.
4. Twenty six percent (26%) of the respondents are not aware of the ways to address sexual harassment at their workplaces.
5. Forty three percent (43%) of the survey participants stated that they are not aware if there is a policy statement on sexual harassment at their workplaces.
6. Of the participants that were sexually harassed at work, seventy five (75%) were females.
7. Sixty two percent (62%) of the participants that said the definition of sexual harassment is confusing, unclear and are also not sure of the boundaries between sexual harassment and harmless flirting were managerial employees.
8. Of the respondents, seventy six percent (76%) of the respondents that mentioned that women bring sexual harassment to themselves were male.
9. Nineteen percent (19%) of female managerial employees believe that women bring sexual harassment problems on themselves by dressing or acting provocatively at work and fifty four percent (54%) of male managers believe the same too.
10. Generally, sixty six percent (66%) of managers believe women bring sexual harassment problems to themselves.
11. Thirteen percent (13%) of all female respondents have been promised something in return for sexual favours at work.
12. Sixty percent (60%) of male employees that have been promised something in return for sexual favours at work are currently in managerial positions.
13. Eighty six percent (86%) of the respondents that have been punished for refusing sexual advances at work are female employees.
14. Sixty six percent (66%) of the employees that believe they have not been any complaints in the last 3 years were managers.
15. Sixty two percent (62%) of the respondents that do not feel confident enough to protect themselves were managerial employees.
16. Two percent (2%) of the participants would accept sexual advances in return for favours at work.
17. Seventy four percent (74%) of the managerial respondents have never offered support to someone who was being sexually harassed at work.
18. Eighty six percent (86%) of the respondents have never received any training on sexual harassment.
19. Some of the participants said they have lost their jobs, denied promotions and even been raped at their workplaces.
We noted that some employees claim to have been dismissed for reporting that they were being sexually harassed at work. Organisations should make an effort to ensure that all employees are adequately informed and trained on how to handle and manage sexual harassment at work when and if it arises.
We noted that most of the respondents’ workplaces do not have clear policies on sexual harassment. Organisations must put policies in place to safeguard their employees from sexual harassment. These polices would need to be enforced so employees can feel that they are being protected. A workplace free from sexual harassment is likely to be productive and likely to help the organisation attract and retain the right talent.
The majority of the respondents (62%) were not aware of what constitutes sexual harassment. This needs to change. Employees need to take the first step to educate themselves on this issue so that they can have an awareness of the topic and together with the organisations policies, would ensure that they are well equipped to deal with and address sexual harassment.
For the full report – Sexual Harassment in Zimbabwean Workplaces Survey Report, contact Memory Nguwi. He is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com