Sexual harassment is very common at work, unfortunately, and women are more commonly the victims. Sexual Harassment is: any repeated or unwanted verbal or physical sexual advance, sexually explicit derogatory statements, or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone in the workplace or classroom, which is offensive or objectionable to the recipient or which causes the recipient discomfort or humiliation or interferes with the recipient’s education or job performance (Definition developed by NOW and Working Women’s Institute). If you have ever been the recipient of sexual harassment, you know how humiliating and annoying it can be.
As a woman in the workplace, how can you avoid suffering through this? If we lived in a perfect world, women would be able to act, dress and do whatever they wanted and never be bothered by men they don’t want to be bothered by, but unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and often our actions and appearance can be misinterpreted. Here are some tips that will help you avoid these misinterpretations.
Don’t be too friendly. Sadly, male coworkers might mistake friendliness for flirting. If you are a naturally expressive person and often touch others while talking or giggle and smile a lot, try to control this during work hours. While you are in a professional environment, you must act more professionally. This doesn’t mean you have to be serious or dry and boring all the time, it simply means you need to act a bit more accordingly to the situation. This will avoid misunderstandings with male coworkers, especially if they are just getting to know you.
Dress conservatively. Even if you are allowed to dress very informally at your work place or you often come in jeans for casual Fridays, dress conservatively for your work. That means, take care to pick clothes that aren’t too tight or too revealing. I believe that cleavage is not appropriate at a work situation. You want to be taken seriously, right? Then why not dress seriously. This doesn’t mean you need to start wearing skirts up to your ankles or blouses that button up to your neck, however, it doesn’t hurt to dress a bit more professionally, specially if you really want to avoid your male coworkers to be tempted to see you as a sexual object.
Be firm. Despite all your efforts, there is a coworker that keeps making inappropriate comments or keeps looking at you in a way that really bothers you. Do not encourage him by smiling or giggling. Do be firm in your rejection towards these inappropriate advances. If he keeps “dropping by” your work area, ask him pointedly, “Don’t you have work to do?” or tell him, “I am very busy right now, I would appreciate if you don’t keep dropping by.” If a coworker tries giving you gifts and you are not interested, do not accept this gift. You might be worried about hurting his feelings, but he needs to understand that his actions are not appropriate and that you are not receptive towards his attentions.
If you follow these tips among whatever else your common sense might dictate, hopefully you will be able to avoid sexual harassment all together. If after doing this, you still have problems you might have to talk to your supervisor or report this person to human resources.