[A] major study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine outlines a more comprehensive way of looking at sexual harassment within organizations and identifies the strongest predictor of such behavior. Surprisingly, it has little to do with individual perpetrators.
The study finds that the strongest, most potent predictor of sexual harassment is essentially the culture of the company ― what the researchers call “organizational climate.”
If employees believe that their organization takes harassment seriously, then harassment is less likely to happen, according to the 311-page report released Tuesday. That faith in fair treatment acts as a deterrent against bad actors and encourages workers to speak up about harassment ― key to keeping bad behavior at bay.
“It’s not about rooting out the bad apples; we need to focus on the whole barrel,” said Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan and one of 21 experts who authored the report. “When organizations really cultivate a climate that makes clear it will not tolerate sex harassment, employees are much less likely to engage in sexual harassment,” she said.