Cyprus Mail

Workplace harassment disproportionately affecting women and their careers, commissioner says

Lack of exemplary punishment for harassers has compelled women to either resign from their positions or face dismissal, negatively impacting their career, Gender Equality Commissioner Josie Christodoulou said on Wednesday.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue that disproportionately affects women and stems from deeply rooted gender inequalities and power imbalances, Christodoulou noted during an event titled on the prevention and handling of sexual harassment in the workplace by the Ypatia foundation for the promotion of equality.

She referred to global data from the 2023 UN report, which indicates that nine out of ten men and women hold deep prejudices against women, with 49 per cent believing that men make better leaders than women.

Furthermore, the commissioner for gender equality pointed out that 25 per cent of respondents think it is justified for a man to physically harm his partner. “Deep-seated biases persist,” she stated, quoting the UN Secretary-General, who said, “It will take 300 years to achieve full and substantive gender equality.”

She added, “The topic we are discussing today is part of these biases and stereotypes, despite global efforts, such as the #MeToo movement, to put an end to all forms of violence.”

She pointed out that research and studies consistently show that women who experience harassment always say no, either directly or indirectly. However, the harasser often intentionally disregards these refusals.

“Women do everything they can to prevent and stop harassment, but if they don’t find a supportive environment…they either suffer in silence or quit their jobs,” she added.

Regarding surveys in Greece, the commissioner said that they showed that 70-80 per cent of women harassed in the private sector either quit or are fired, which has an impact on their professional career, In the public sector the norm is that women are transferred from the positions where they work and the perpetrator remains in their position, she said.

“There is no exemplary punishment for perpetrators,: she stressed.

Christodoulou then highlighted the employer’s responsibility. “Employers have a responsibility to create policies, to provide training that fosters a culture of equality – of mutual respect, to create a safe and confidential reporting environment where employees can report incidents of sexual harassment or bullying without fear of retaliation,” she said.

Promoting gender equality and fully safeguarding the human rights of women is one of the top priorities of the government led by President Nikos Christodoulides. “The goal is to establish a gender-inclusive political, economic, and social framework, deconstruct gender stereotypes, and combat biases and prejudices through a holistic approach,” she stressed.

Speaking about legislation in Cyprus, Christodoulou stated that “any form of unwanted verbal, psychological, or physical behaviour of a sexual nature that violates an individual’s dignity constitutes sexual harassment.”

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