Sexual harassment in the Nigerian workplace exists but it is hidden behind a culture of silence.
The fall of Hollywood giant Harvey Weinstein has raised a lot of questions.
One of these questions has to do with sexual harassment and molestation in the workplace. Pulse Movies published an article on the casting couch syndrome and the culture of silence that has made it grow.
If sexual harassment is spoken in hushed tones in Nollywood, you can barely hear a whisper about it in corporate offices. You can say sexual molestation in the workplace is like family secrets, we all know it but we don't speak about it.
On Thursday, October 26, 2017, Pulse put out a survey to find out how much of sexual harassment goes on in the average workplace in Nigeria.
It's an attempt to peek into the culture of grabs, squeezes, stares and intimidation.
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The survey was taken by both men and women. 66.7% of the respondents were female and 33.3% were male. Majority of the respondents belong to the 20-25 age bracket (34.8%). 47.6% of the people who took the survey work in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.
37% of the respondents indicated that they have been sexually harassed in their workplace before. 63% indicated that they have not.
In the survey, the respondents spoke of when they were sexually molested.
Here are a few of them;
"My supervisor touched me inappropriately and constantly waited for everyone to leave before moving to me."
"My Boss pinned me to a wall, romancing me. But I freed myself eventually."
"I was interning at a radio station and was asked to go to this man's 'studio' to practice a voice over and he began talking to me sexually and telling me I'm not 'loose enough' because I don't have a boyfriend. He then proceeded to tell me to turn round slowly so he can look at me well and immediately then asked me to sit on his laps. That was when I decided to call it a day and go home."
39.6% of the respondents indicated that they were harassed by someone of a higher position at their workplace as opposed to 60.9% who were not harassed by someone of a higher position.
Is your workplace safe for women? 60.9% believe so while 10.9% believe it is not safe. 28.3% indicated "maybe".
Another major standout statistic in this survey is this, 47.5% of respondents are aware of other women being harassed in their place of work.
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The stats might not be alarming but you have to understand that there is a thick culture of silence regarding such things as sexual assault, sexual molestation and assault in Nigeria. People don't want to speak up.
“I never got a complaint directly. Sometimes you'll hear of some people who were forced into a relationship with an executive to get ahead but just rumours” a former executive in an oil and gas company in Lagos tells Pulse under the condition of anonymity.
While he states that there was never a case of sexual harassment in his department, he heard whispers of women in the company forced to have relationships with their bosses.
“None of them would admit it as harassment but you would notice the occasional looks. Executive predators are common. You would hear of it across the industry” he says.
For the people who were sexually molested, filing a complaint with the HR department was not a viable option. 90.2% of the respondents said they didn't send a complaint to the HR.
In most organizations, there are policies that deal with sexual harassment.
“The only reported case we've had, the alleged harasser was terminated fairly quickly and with immediate effect, after investigations were carried out and witnesses were spoken to that confirmed various instances of unwanted advances from the employee towards others” reveals a HR manager to Pulse.
She also says that her company has policies that protect both sexes from harassment. “We've made every effort to create a robust policy that deals fairly with sexual harassment and protects the wellbeing of our employees, female and male.”
The sexual harassment policy in most cases is the same. “If it's a serious one like rape or inappropriate touching the accused gets suspended immediately whilst an investigation is going,” another HR manager tells Pulse.
Clearly, there are policies in place to stop harassment but how often do people use them?
“None of the ladies would ever come out for fear of destroying their careers. The industry is tightly knit and word spreads among executives” the Oil and Gas executive says.
Why are women afraid to speak up?
33.3% "felt threatened" and chose not to do anything about it. 37% feared they would lose their job if they reported to HR. And 29.6% revealed that when they reported to HR in the past, nothing happened.
In Nigeria, it seems a culture of silence and fear is holding a lot of women from talking about sexual harassment. What will make them speak up? When will things change?