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2nd in a series
Heidi Hartmann's picture

Ensuring that a growing economy is equitable and benefits all workers is an important policy priority for all elected officials. Given that women’s earnings and economic security are central to the health and well-being of U.S. households and the overall economy, each election cycle presents an opportunity to highlight the policies that would help women have access to the jobs and benefits workers need to ensure economic security for themselves and their families.

This post is the second in a series outlining eight key policy priorities that are critical for increasing women’s economic opportunities and securing their futures.

While the full scope and cost of sexual harassment in the workplace is still unknown, research has shown that sexual harassment is costly to both individuals and employers. These losses also add up across the economy to reduce the US economy’s gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, economic insecurity has devastating consequences on the lives of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Abuse imposes significant expenses on survivors and life-long consequences due to job loss, debt, damaged credit, coercion into crime or into giving birth. All of these instances can result in lower pay for women that reduce their financial security in retirement and while working.


Thanks to the #MeToo movement and long-standing efforts by anti-domestic violence groups, law enforcement and others, new resources and training opportunities to tackle harassment issues are now available. The impact of sexual harassment and assault, as well as intimate partner violence, on women’s economic security makes addressing this form of violence crucial to a woman-centered policy agenda.


Action steps for all employers include:


■ Adopt and maintain comprehensive anti-harassment policies;

■ Assess risk factors associated with sexual harassment, assault, and domestic violence. Review and evaluate relevant workplace policies;

■ Conduct climate surveys to assess the extent of problems at work;

■ Educate workers and managers to build awareness of unacceptable behavior as well as reporting procedures;

■ Test reporting systems to make sure they are functioning as intended;

■ Ensure that reporting is followed by action against perpetrators.


These policies can help improve both the physical and mental health of female and male victims of harassment, assault, and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Besides helping workers, these polices also help businesses by reducing personnel turnover costs and boosting productivity, business profits, and GDP growth.

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