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Addressing sexual harassment can have substantial financial benefits

debtfive years The issue of sexual harassment continues to plague economists even after the MeToo movement took the world by storm. New allegations of misconduct at American and European universities have seen a surge in old cases. Eradicating harassment in academia is particularly difficult. Because career advancement depends on the goodwill of senior colleagues as well as peers at distant institutions who often collaborate with juniors to conduct research and peer review papers that compete for publication in prestigious journals. is.

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Still, half a year was not wasted. Many economists now use the same rigorous approach to measure the impact of harassment as assessing the impact of accidents on the labor market and in the workplace. Their findings help us understand the cost of sexual coercion, demeaning treatment and degrading comments to victims and the wider workforce. Fortunately, the research also shows that some remedies work.

The greatest costs of harassment are borne by the victims themselves. In addition to significant psychological costs, there are also economic costs. Victims tend to give up their jobs and look for new jobs that may not be for them. Johanna Rickne of Stockholm University and Olle Folke of Uppsala University conducted a study on sexual harassment and followed the respondent for five years. They found that women who reported harassment were 25% more likely to quit their jobs than other women. The comparable increase in male victims was her 15%. Retired women also tended to earn less. Another study by Abi Adams-Prassl and colleagues at the University of Oxford, using Finnish data on violent incidents, including sexual assault, found that female victims’ chances of becoming permanently unemployed increased after factory closures. It shows that workers are almost as likely to be laid off. For male victims, the chances are a little less.

Fear of losing a job also seems to deter victims of sexual harassment from speaking out. Gordon Dahl of the University of California, San Diego and Matthew Knepper of the University of Georgia found that during recessions, only the more severe cases tended to be reported.

Gender-based harassment also acts as a tax on the rest of the population. One way to identify this economic value is to estimate how much wage cuts workers are prepared to take to avoid the risk of harassment. In their paper, Rickne and Folke conducted an experiment using a fictitious job offer in Sweden. The results found that, on average, the most at-risk sex (mostly female) was willing to give up 17% of her salary to avoid harassment. In another study, Joni Hirsch of Vanderbilt University calculated that the collective cost in income of an American woman per her case of sexual harassment filed in any given year was her $9.3 million. I’m here.

Encouragingly, research can also guide thinking about how to tackle sexual harassment.One lesson is that improving external options can help. Dahl and Knepper found that before North Carolina cut his unemployment benefits in 2013, workers were more likely to report harassment. Amenities that make it easier to find work, such as transportation connections to areas where work is thriving, should also make a difference. Where retaliation is highly likely and external options are limited, such as in filmmaking and academia, institutions across sectors must be powerful enough to punish deviations. The American Economic Association has created a code of conduct and can launch an investigation, but it lacks the teeth to obtain evidence and impose sanctions.

Another lesson is that employers themselves should take a strong interest in tackling sexual harassment. Caroline Collie of Bocconi University and co-authors found that since 2017, more women are leaving organizations for fear of being harassed. A Finnish study also found that non-victim women were more likely to leave companies where male violence against women was reported. Inevitably, companies that crack down on harassers will have access to a wider talent pool, which will allow them to outperform their competitors.

Evidence of such bonuses is beginning to emerge. Research suggests that companies run by female executives may be more valuable since MeToo began. One reason is that men approach criminals differently. Adams-Prassl and her colleagues found that female leaders tended to dismiss perpetrators. As a result, more women come to stay. According to a paper by Mark Egan and his colleagues at Harvard Business School, female bosses are less tolerant of other types of misconduct by men, such as consumer disputes and regulatory violations.

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However, such incentives are effective only so far. The final lesson is that organizations where harassment occurs under their roof often bear little of the true cost. Federal law in the United States limits the amount of sexual harassment damages a victim can receive from a large corporation to her $300,000. Hersch argues that applying the same methods used in workplace safety cases would yield more money. Such payments can discourage companies from condoning fraud. But it may not be enough to change norms and company culture. For that, those in power need to speak up.

Economists now need to look to their backyards.Anna, Ex-Economics ptimed A student at a university in Europe (whose name has been changed) said her boss had made inappropriate comments and eventually asked her to spend the night at his house. P.timeD. Anna chose to pursue a career outside of academia. Not because she lacks ambition, she says, but because she avoids the toxic culture and the dangerous environment it creates. Economics will do well to ensure future Anas stays.

Read more about our column on economics, Free Exchange.
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https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2022/12/08/tackling-sexual-harassment-could-bring-sizeable-economic-dividends Addressing sexual harassment can have substantial financial benefits

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