Top Canadian executives say sexual harassment not a problem

Despite hundreds of women and men saying they have been sexually harassed at work, 95 per cent of Canadian chief executives say it’s not a problem in their workplaces. (Getty Images)

Sexual harassment at work? Not in Canada.

Of 153 executives surveyed on behalf of KPMG, 94 per cent said sexual harassment was not a problem in their business. The responders were all top C-Suite executives whose job titles start with the letter C for chief, e.g. CEO, CFO and COO.

According to the survey, approximately 31 per cent knew of specific sexual harassment incidents within their organizations. While many agreed that most cases go unreported, most executives believed that these cases are “infrequent” and “rare.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace is less prevalent today than it was 15 years ago, say 69 per cent of executives surveyed.  Most believe their workplaces have appropriate sexual harassment policies in place.

However, in a 2017 Statistics Canada survey, 60 per cent of 1,349 respondents — 1,005 of whom identified as women and 200 as male — reported experiencing harassment, and 30 per cent said they had experienced sexual harassment. Sexual violence incidents were also reported by 3 per cent. The harassing or violent behaviour came from an individual with authority over them, half of survey respondents said. Forty-four per cent experienced the behaviour from a co-worker.

The Globe and Mail, which published the C-Suite survey results in its Report on Business, points out two recent surveys that support Statscan’s findings. The first is a November 2017 study by Insights West, where half of the 451 working Canadian women who responded had experienced sexual harassment during their careers. Another survey by Abacus Data Inc. survey found that 56 per cent of 1,500 Canadian respondents said that women are sexually harassed at work. A majority of women, and most men, agree that there are generally no consequences for those who sexually harass women in the workplace.

“When you read it in that context, it seems that [executives] are saying sexual harassment is somebody else’s problem,” Marie Clarke Walker, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, told the Globe and Mail. “But it isn’t — it’s everybody’s problem.”

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