How to prevent sexual harassment at your company

Last fall silence was broken by thousands of women speaking up about sexual harassment and violence. Gathered under the hashtag #metoo and the many different industry-specific petitions such as #teknisktfel, women shared their stories, and we could no longer look the other way.

During our seminar on ”How to prevent sexual harassment at your company” we had the guest speaker, Lina Ploug, a strategist with a focus on gender equality and women´s rights at The City of Stockholm´s Department for Human Rights, at the Executive Office.

Harassments

  • An act that insults or violates someone´s dignity
  • Connected to one of the grounds for discrimination

Sexual harassments

  • An act of sexual nature that insults or violates someone´s dignity.
This is a place where women feel safe and free from sexual harassment.

A Woman's Place principle no. 3

Lina spoke about the fact that the #metoo movement shifted the burden of risks that have been thaught to and experienced by young females throughout the years, to now include risks for men. With several voices speaking up and with fingers pointing out malfeasant behavior, men take a risk to be suspected or accused of assault and harassments. She quoted Kathrina Berndt Rasmussen, post-doc at the Institute for Futures Studies, in her analysis of the #metoo-movement, where she highlighted the following paradigm shift:

The norm before (women): do not send the wrong signals, do not dress ”too” sexy, do not go home with someone you don´t know, do not go through the park at night.

The norm after (men): do not send the wrong signals, do not touch or comment, make sure of willingness and reciprocity.

Norms

  • Unwritten/unspoken rule
  • Inconstant, often connected to a specific situation
  • Those who follow the norm are included, those who break the norm are excluded
  • Often first noticed when broken

We learned that there are unspoken norms which we bring to work. These norms often produce a culture of silence, which needs to be broken to achieve progress in the subject of gender equality and create environments where women feel free and safe from sexual harassment.

Master suppression techniques are found where people meet.

Berit Ås

A few underlying contributions to the problem of not feeling safe at work where presented, such as the basis of Master Suppression Techniques, which we discussed in groups and the participants later shared their own experiences of this. 

Master Suppression Techniques

  • Making invisible
  • Ridicule
  • Withhold information
  • Dubble bind
  • Heap blame/put to shame

The Master suppression techniques is a framework articulated in 1945 by the Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen. In the late 1970s, the framework was popularized by Norwegian social psychologist Berit Ås, who reduced Nissen's original nine means to five. Master suppression techniques are defined as strategies of social manipulation by which a dominant group maintains such a position in a hierarchy. 

How to make a change:

  • Make visible
  • Ask questions/respect to the victim
  • Demand to be informed/inform
  • Break the pattern/give your view on the situation
  • Intellectualize/confirm

Lina started off the presentation by reminding us about the fact that the law defines these sexual harassments as criminal acts. A perfect cliffhanger to the subject of the following seminar on  ”The new discrimination law – How to go from theory to practical use” with Pia Attoff, Founder of Attoff Law & Johanna Lundin, CEO at Equalate.

Next seminar - Inclusive and norm-creative external communication (29/8) >

Article - Recruiting with greater diversity >

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