The University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy, headquartered in Huddleston Hall, recently released a report on Jan. 30 detailing the frequency of sexual harassment in the Granite State’s workforce, highlighting how over half of women surveyed had experienced sexual harassment at work. 

The brief – authored by Research Associate Professor of Sociology Kristin Smith, Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) Executive Director of Research Sharyn Potter and PIRC Executive Director of Practice Jane Stapleton – discovered that 52 percent of women surveyed, and 22 percent of men have been victims of sexual harassment at least once in their lives, with the majority of men (13 percent of male participants) reporting “offensive remarks” made at or about them concerning their appearance, body or sexual activities and most women (24 percent of female participants) citing being “stared, leered, [or] ogled” at work most often. 

Additional findings concluded that most workers of both genders were most likely to face “anxiety or depression” as consequences of workplace sexual harassment, as found in 27 percent of women and 19 percent of men. Twenty-one percent of women and 17 percent of men, meanwhile, reported them quitting their job altogether in the wake of harassment. Harassment also caused 12 percent of female and eight percent of male respondents to face additional “financial stress,” and caused another 12 percent of women and 10 percent of men to feel “bad” about themselves. 

“I think the thing that is most striking is that about one-fifth of workers who have experienced sexual harassment at work quit their job after that experience,” Smith said. “So this really is a wake-up call to employers because, you know, if one-fifth of workers are leaving because of an experience that happened in the workplace, it’s something they may want to pay attention to.”  

Smith, who also works as a family demographer, said she frequently investigates women in the workforce and how they are impacted by various work environments and work-and-family policies, calling the report a “natural extension of that work.” 

Potter, also a sociology professor at UNH, said that while the results were not “surprising,” they still served as a sign of how “prevalent” sexual harassment and its negative consequences are in New Hampshire’s work environments. 

“I think, for years, many of the people doing this research knew how prevalent this problem was…and how many people have changed jobs because they worked in hostile work environments, sometimes taking jobs that don’t [utilize] their [education and] skills, leaving jobs they love because it’s just really uncomfortable,” Potter said, “and I think the past 18 months to two years have really shown how prevalent this problem is nationally both for men and women, and we decided we wanted to see what was [happening] in New Hampshire [workplaces].” 

Smith told The New Hampshire that she and the other authors hope for the Carsey report to serve as a launch point for further research down the road that could result in the creation of a national survey featuring similar questions with results that can add to the “national dialogue” on sexual misconduct. 

“But [with] this survey, one of the hopes is that it would start a dialogue in the state [of New Hampshire] to talk about these issues,” she said. 

I think one of the things is that people really don’t understand [are the power] dynamics inherent in sexual harassment, and don’t [realize]… both the acute and chronic implications of sexual harassment,” Potter said as she echoed Smith’s calls for increased conversation on the topic of sexual harassment. “So you can think about somebody who’s finally made it, they’re in their dream job, they’re in their 30s, they have a family, the salary’s really good and the job is amazing; but there’s this person [in their workplace] who is saying horrible things, doing inappropriate things to them, and so many of these people decide to leave because they can’t tolerate [the harassment]…and they often go into lower paying jobs and jobs that don’t use their skills. So, as employers, we’re losing this great brainpower [and skillset] in our workforce.” 

The researchers stated that the brief’s founding questions were issued both in April and June 2018 as part of the Granite State Poll, a quarterly-issued statewide public opinion poll based out of the UNH Survey Center; Smith added that issuing the survey twice helped the researchers increase the size their sample pool. The survey featured a survey size of 989 participants, consisting of 577 men and 412 women.

Benjamin Strawbridge is a News Editor and the Senate Correspondent for The New Hampshire newspaper at the University of New Hampshire. He joined in September 2017 as a contributor, and was promoted to his current position in April 2018. Strawbridge is part of the UNH Class of 2020 and majors in English/Journalism.

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