Power, Sex, and Gender in the Workplace

Some of the content we will be discussing necessitate a trigger warning for subjects surrounding sexual violence. Please know that there are resources on and off-campus and you are not alone. Take the steps you need to take care of yourself. 

On the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socio-economic class, one report found that 43.8% of employees experience harassment in the workplace (All Voices). Over 40% of LGBT employees reported experiencing unfair treatment at work, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives (UCLA Williams Institute, 2021). 40% of women are harassed in this setting (All voices) and these statistics matter. To what extent are graduating students educated on these issues or how to promote safer work environments? The “Power, Sex, and Gender in the Workplace,” panel sought to and became a space where students can come and learn about the realities of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace while navigating boundary-setting and the legal avenues out there for support.

To contextualize these statistics, I will begin by discussing my initial project to understand where this panel derived from. In the Fall of 2021, I took my senior seminar for Sociology where I collaborated with the Sexual Misconduct and Research Team (SMART) as a student-intern to conduct a project surrounding the campus climate towards sexual assault. Through several modes of qualitative research encompassing topics of hookup culture and systematic victimization, the findings depicted information-sharing and the practicality of the law as the core weaknesses driving public discontent with the response and support procedures for survivors of sexual assault. Students spread the available information as a community through social media or by word-of-mouth that would otherwise be re-traumatizing through a formal reporting process. Staff might not be able to address all student’s concerns by being bound to the law. It’s difficult to find a space where both staff and students can come together to transparently communicate about this subject.  

I’ve worked with SMART to hold more educational events, distribute resources, and promote the creation of a peer-led support group. Students need to stay informed and continue retaining more information on resources and prevention strategies for sexual assault. Unfortunately, I recognized this lack of education ever more present during a student’s senior year. Seniors are not receiving enough guidance on traversing conversations of consent and advocacy, which becomes particularly critical as you graduate from the legal protections of Title IX and SMART. The construction of this panel then was created to help promote a healthy environment at work and/or grad sites. 

Talking about these issues gives students and employees control over their bodies, and the ability to advocate for themselves and others at their jobs. The panel is a space where students came to learn about the realities of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace while learning about ways to navigate boundary setting and the legal avenues out there for support (both in and out of the work/grad site). Students asked questions regarding setting boundaries with unwanted romantic attention from a coworker and how to manage workplace relationships. These thoughts go unspoken and people don’t get the chance to know their rights. The statistics addressed in the beginning in part are a consequence of weak education systems that fail to teach not only how to seek support after harassment occurs, but more importantly how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Programming revolving around the culturally-competent education of boundaries and safe sexual and romantic relationships is useful at any point and needs to be continually revisited and encouraged.

Thank you to Career Services, Legal Affairs, the Provost’s Office, SMART, and my advisor Professor Kate Mason for your continuous support throughout this project and the insight you all brought into the space. I hope we all continue as a network consisting of both students and staff to continue striving to create safer conditions for students to excel. 

Melanie Romero | Political Science, Sociology | Class of 2022 | Posse ’19