Opinion: The Cost of Sexual Harassment


By Michelle Legaspi Sanchez

Chester County has made great progress on bringing together a variety of stakeholders to improve the business community and enhance our quality of life. We have focused on expanding and enhancing a skilled talent pool in order to draw in companies.

As we continue to strive toward this important goal, we cannot forget that an equitable work environment can either make an employee stay – if she feels that she is respected – or leave in favor of better treatment and opportunities for advancement elsewhere.

Sexual harassment comes in many different forms – lewd comments, unwelcome touching or requests for sexual favors. It can also manifest as physical aggression, intimidation or unequal treatment based on gender.

In the workplace, such harassment has profound emotional and occupational consequences. Women and men who have experienced harassment suffer from depression, anxiety, guilt or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

It affects job performance, motivation and the ability to carry out daily tasks without fear.

From an economic standpoint, sexual harassment also affects the bottom line. According to data collected by sociologist Heather McLaughlin, about 80% of women who have been harassed leave their jobs within two years.

For a woman in the early stages of her career, in particular, an experience with sexual harassment may cause her to question her achievements or value at the company. Women of all ages may leave if they find that harassment is prevalent in their industry or that advancement potential is just not available to them.

Women of color fare the worst. Harassment claims are most prevalent in low-wage service-industry jobs dominated by women, and women of color in particular, including restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and other hospitality establishments. Industries where men have historically outnumbered women – like manufacturing – are also more susceptible to claims of sexual harassment.

How many great thinkers, leaders, innovators or entertainers have we all missed out on because the doors to these industries have boxed women out of opportunity, or even worse, their own personal safety?

When we discuss and explore how Chester County can continue to position itself economically and socially, we cannot dismiss these startling numbers.


Michelle Legaspi Sanchez is the Executive Director of the Chester County Fund for Women & Girls and is available via email at michelle@ccfwg.org.

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