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Too many men are silent bystanders to sexual harassment

W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith write, "We were blindsided and demoralized by news this month that a substantial group of male Marines had posted unauthorized and compromising pictures of female colleagues, ostensibly their sisters-in-arms, to a Facebook page where other men, including thousands of current and former Marines, made derogatory and harassing comments. Some of them made allusions to sexual assault and rape.

As U.S. Naval Academy professors who spend our days educating and championing women for careers of service as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, we feel heartsick and angry about this. Yet, as disturbing as it is, even worse is the steady drumbeat of such news coming out of organizations of all types. In the Navy, several of the first women to volunteer for service on U.S submarines were surreptitiously filmed in the bathroom. Last year the Harvard men’s soccer team saw its season terminated when news leaked that team members were posting, rating, and discussing, in explicit and derogatory terms, unauthorized photos of players on the women’s team. Multiple sexual harassment lawsuits have been lodged at Fox News over the past year. Most recent, Uber has come under fire for allegedly tolerating a culture of unbridled sexism and sexual harassment.

There are two common threads through all of these stories. First, a few men are objectifying, disrespecting, and harassing female colleagues. Second, and far more troubling, lots of men are bystanders, silent and impotent in the face of a toxic workplace.

It is no secret that sexual harassment remains widespread across professions and around the globe, especially in sectors that are predominantly male. Women who become targets of harassing, demeaning, or disrespectful workplace behavior often experience a range of negative psychological, health, and job-related outcomes. Their organizations also suffer, in the form of direct costs (employee turnover, legal fees) and indirect costs (diminished morale, damage to organizational reputation). Marginalizing and alienating 50% of the nation’s talent is a script for failure."


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