Amid the health and justice crises we’re dealing with now as a society, #MeToo remains on the minds of employees. According to new research from workplace nonprofit group Catalyst, when asked how they would respond to incidences of workplace sexism, 86 percent of men said they wanted to help address and interrupt sexist behaviors in the workplace—but only 31 percent of those men said they felt confident to do so.
The group’s new report, Interrupting Sexism at Work: How Men Respond in a Climate of Silence, found that workplace climate is an important factor in how men perceive and respond to sexism. Men who experience higher levels of a “climate of silence”—an environment in which employees feel restrained from constructively speaking up about organizational or work-related problems, concerns, or challenges—feel both less committed to, and less confident in, speaking up against sexist comments or behaviors.
- As organizational silence increases, men are 50percentless likely to be committed to interrupting sexism and 40percentless likely to be confident in their ability to interrupt sexism
- As organizational silence increases, men are 30percentless likely to question a colleague and 35percentless likely to challenge a colleague who makes a sexist comment against a coworker
- Indirect responses in the form of sarcasm or humor are 75percentmore likely to be used as organizational silence increases
“The good news is that this study shows there are men willing to be a part of the solution and interrupt sexism in the workplace,” said Catalyst President and CEO Lorraine Hariton, in a news release. “We know it’s not easy to dismantle an organizational climate of silence, but this study is a call to awareness and action for companies and leaders to address the factors that may influence employees who are deciding whether it feels safe to interrupt sexism at work.”
Based on the survey data and interviews with men, the report’s authors assessed what prevents men from or encourages men to interrupt sexist behaviors they witness at work. The authors conclude that it is critical to identify power dynamics and privilege; speak out against sexist behavior in the workplace; and challenge assumptions that things “are just the way they are” to “dismantle” the climate of silence and help male leaders interrupt sexism.