By Claire Cain Miller for NYTimes
Many people are familiar with typical corporate training to prevent sexual harassment: clicking through a PowerPoint, checking a box that you read the employee handbook or attending a mandatory seminar at which someone lectures about harassment while attendees glance at their phones.
At best, research has found, that type of training succeeds in teaching people basic information, like the definition of harassment and how to report violations. At worst, it can make them uncomfortable, prompting defensive jokes, or reinforce gender stereotypes, potentially making harassment worse. Either way, it usually fails to address the root problem: preventing sexual harassment from happening in the first place.
That’s because much of the training exists for a different reason altogether. Two 1998 Supreme Court cases determined that for a company to avoid liability in a sexual harassment case, it had to show that it had trained employees on its anti-harassment policies.
But while training protects companies from lawsuits, it can also backfire by reinforcing gender stereotypes, at least in the short term, according to research by Justine Tinkler, a sociologist at the University of Georgia. That’s because it tends to portray men as powerful and sexually insatiable and women as vulnerable. Her research has shown this effect no matter how minimal the training. “It puts women in a difficult position in terms of feeling confident and empowered in the workplace,” she said.Claire Cain Miller, new york times, Sexual Harassment
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