OTTAWA — Nearly one-quarter of Canadians who participated in an online survey say they have personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, but more than half decided against reporting it.
Navigator, a major Toronto-based public relations firm, conducted the online survey of 2,000 people across Canada last month.
Just over a third of the women and 12 per cent of the men who took part in the survey said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work, while another 10 per cent of respondents said they thought they had, but were not sure whether it met the criteria.
Of those who were willing to answer more questions about their experience, 38 per cent said the harasser had influence over their career.
A third of those who had personally experienced sexual harassment said they reported it to someone in a supervisory position, whereas 57 per cent said they did not report it to anyone at work.
The survey also explored whether participants believed certain actions — ranging from being forced to engage in sexual activity to being asked out on a date by a co-worker — meet the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace, with some of the responses breaking down along gender lines.
Eighty-three per cent of male respondents said "being asked out by a colleague persistently after the colleague is told no" would count as sexual harassment, while 78 per cent of female respondents agreed.
And 27 per cent of women who took part in the survey said it would be sexual harassment to make comments about one's clothing or appearance, while 18 per cent of men said the same.
Meanwhile, 81 per cent of respondents suggested allegations must be investigated thoroughly before someone who is accused of sexual harassment suffers any consequences, given the potential damage to careers and personal lives.
Nineteen per cent of respondents, on the other hand, said they were more closely aligned with the view that all allegations should be believed and followed up with "appropriate actions" right away.
Thirty-two per cent of respondents also found sexual harassment, in general, to be a matter of "very great concern," with rising interest rates being the only issue that ranked higher, at 33 per cent.
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the upcoming legalization of marijuana for recreational use and job losses due to automation did not rank as highly.
Sexual harassment in the workplace, specifically, was of "very great concern" for 26 per cent of respondents.
The survey was conducted between Feb. 12 to 20.
The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.
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