A new study finds that a new wave of social media users have become more aware of sexual harassment in the workplace, and that women are more willing to share their stories and expose their own experiences.
The findings suggest that #MeSo, a hashtag launched on Facebook in 2016 that encourages women to come forward and speak out about sexual harassment, may be a catalyst for more women reporting harassment in their workplaces.
“We were all taught that we didn’t have to be a victim,” says Erica Nunn, a writer and producer in New York City.
“We didn’t need to speak up.
But now, thanks to this social media platform, it’s really important that we have the courage to tell the story.”
Nunn is one of the authors of the new study, which is published in the journal Sex Roles.
She and her coauthors analyzed more than 5,000 women’s accounts from the Twitter platform, analyzing how they responded to sexual harassment and how their accounts changed after being “shadowbanned” from Twitter.
The authors found that, after shadowbanned, women’s experiences of harassment and assault increased significantly, from 15 percent to 30 percent of all incidents reported to Twitter.
“For women who have had a career in the tech industry, that’s a very significant increase,” says Nunn.
“I think there’s something about that, because of the nature of the industry, women are not going to want to come to work and be harassed.
But I think this is a huge turning point.”
The authors note that, despite the increase in harassment, it is not necessarily because of a concerted effort to combat harassment in tech, rather that the social media platforms’ policies and practices have shifted.
“This study reinforces that women have a lot of power in their own workplace,” says Sarah Levenson, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the research.
“Women have been telling their stories for a long time.”
The research, which examined 2,100 women who had worked in the software industry, found that the majority of the women who shared their experiences of sexual misconduct said they had experienced harassment within their first few weeks on the job.
The researchers also found that many women who reported sexual misconduct did so because they felt powerless, or felt pressured to make a complaint or report sexual misconduct, rather than because of their own feelings of being harassed.
The study was done in conjunction with the University at Buffalo and the Women’s Law Center, which provide legal support for female tech workers.
Levensson says that, even though the authors were looking at how women responded to harassment in a workplace setting, they were also looking at their experiences in real-life situations.
“I think we are witnessing a kind of tipping point,” she says.
“There’s a lot more awareness about sexual misconduct.
Women are starting to share it more openly.
And so that’s really exciting.”
Women in the field are also seeing that it can be more difficult to report sexual harassment.
“The question we asked is, ‘What happens if you are accused of sexual assault?
Are you going to report it?’ and, ‘Who is going to take care of you when you go to the police?'” says Jennifer Stapleton, who works as a public policy director for the nonprofit Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
“This study shows that that’s not the case.
This is really good news.”
The study also suggests that the #MeToMe campaign, which launched on the social networking platform in 2017, is helping women in tech to share more about their experiences.
The campaign encourages women in their professional and personal lives to share videos and photos of themselves wearing clothing that includes the hashtag #MeThatGirl.
“It’s really hard to do this if you’re in your own head, and if you don’t know that it’s a hashtag,” says Levensdson.
“It’s very powerful to see women sharing this with their friends and colleagues.
We know that women who are in this field can’t speak up and they need this.”
Nancy Gannon, a technology consultant who worked in Silicon Valley for 10 years and currently lives in New Jersey, says that while she was “horrified” when she saw the #NotMyGirl campaign in the media, she is “now starting to realize that there’s a place for that kind of movement.”
Gannon was one of many women in her industry who were shadowbans from Twitter in 2017.
“Twitter was so good to me because they really knew how to handle harassment,” says Gannon.
“They had a great culture and they had a wonderful employee support.
So, when I was shadowbanned from Twitter, I was really disappointed.
It was a really disappointing experience.”
The hashtag #NotYourAbuse has been embraced by women who work in tech and in tech-related industries, such as social media company LinkedIn.