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Is your office safe?

Social Change

Can you imagine a workplace where half of the women are uncomfortable coming to work?

The reality is more than 50% of Canadian women have experienced unwanted sexual comments at work. Most workplaces have harassment policies in place, yet many employees are unsure of what they are, how to access them or fear retaliation for reporting.

Every year, YWCAs across the country honour the lives of the women lost in the Montréal Massacre. This year we are focusing on sexual harassment in the workplace.

In Canada, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Human Rights Code prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Any employer with five or more employees must have a policy in place. Sexual harassment covers a wide range of inappropriate behaviours ranging from the pervasive to severe.

Pervasive sexual harassment could be unwanted comments about a co-worker’s appearance, leering or sexual innuendo.

Severe sexual harassment could be sharing unwanted sexual photos, physical touching or sexual assault.

Research shows that the culture of an organization and tolerance are the strongest predictor of sexual harassment.


Is sexual harassment a running joke in your office?

Positive behaviour modeled at the leadership level can stop an office’s culture from becoming a hostile work environment

In many instances, sexual harassment gets brushed aside by coworkers with admonishments like “Can’t you take a joke?” and “No need to be sensitive!” it can lead to exclusion of certain workers – particularly women – from important meetings or social gatherings by a group of harassers. In traditionally male-dominated industries like STEM, women are often coached to adopt stereotypically male characteristics – lack of emotions, joking about sexual harassment – rather than report sexual harassment as it could be damaging to their career advancement. This kind of avoidance behaviour can lead to many talented women leaving positions they worked for rather than reporting harassment. 


What policies do you have in place to protect your employees?

All employees are entitled to work in a safe environment free of sexual harassment, so what can you do to ensure that your workplace?

We’ve created an easy and clear policy checklist for your organization.



Read part two of our series, where we provide a few helpful tips you can use to reduce instances of sexual harassment at your work.

The YWCA raises awareness of the effects of violence against women inside and outside of the home. We also fight for reforms and supports that help women make the successful transition to economic independence and to live free from violence and abuse. 

See the YWCA Metro Vancouver Stopping the Violence brochure to find other local organizations that provide support for women leaving abuse.

The YWCA offers a range of programs that provide resources for single mothers who leave abusive relationships, from child care to housing and employment services.

To support YWCA programs for women leaving abuse contact donations@ywcavan.org | 604 895 5850

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