WEST CHESTER — Results of the #ChescoKnows Workplace Sexual Harassment survey, supported by the Chester County Commissioners and undertaken by the Chester County Women’s Commission (CCWC) and Chester County Fund for Women and Girls (CCFWG), reveal that one in four people (26 percent) in Chester County have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in their current workplace.
The survey results also note that nearly two-thirds of people, or 62 percent, reported to have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career.
The #ChescoKnows survey was distributed throughout Chester County between November 2018 and January 2019 and garnered more than 900 responses (81 percent female) in both English and Spanish. The results captured a range of experiences and insights from current Chester County workplaces.
“This is the first survey of its kind in Chester County and is among few to be done in any community,” said Wendy Leeper, President of the Chester County Women’s Commission and Executive Director of the Chester County Bar Association. “Our plan is to use these results to spark dialogue and action to create workplaces that are safe and productive for everyone.”
Additional results from the #ChescoKnows survey include:
• Nearly one in five (17 percent) of people employed in Chester County have experienced sexual harassment from a client, customer or contractor in their current workplace.
• 29 percent of workers either do not have a process at work, or are not aware of any process to report concerning behavior in their current workplace.
• Less than half – 43 percent – of people are confident that workplace sexual harassment will decrease in the future.
In the spring of 2018, Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell charged the County’s Women’s Commission to establish a coalition of support, spurred on by the #MeToo movement, to help prepare women for the gender inequality that they will inevitably face in the workforce. The coalition would work with organizations like the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls and other key non-profits, as well as the county’s universities and high schools to begin discussions and seminars that will help women who are currently working or will be starting their career in the near future.
In a jointly-written editorial, the Commissioners noted, “We have a responsibility to help empower and educate young men and women who are in or entering the workforce on the tide of the #MeToo movement, to prepare them to address the issues of inequality and of harassment.”
The #ChescoKnows survey, and planned follow up actions from the survey, are a direct result of the Commissioners’ work with the Women’s Commission.
One direct action is the upcoming “#ChescoKnows Summit” open to the public, taking place on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Penn State Great Valley. The purpose of the summit, hosted by the Chester County Women’s Commission and the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls, is to present survey results in more detail and to explore ways in which all key partners can work together to address sexual harassment in Chester County’s workplace. The keynote speakers for the event are Brad Johnson and David Smith, co-authors of “Athena Rising – How and Why Men and Women Should Mentor Women.” Additional details of the event will be published in the coming months.
“The #ChescoKnows survey shows us that people experience a range and breadth of impacts as a result of sexual harassment, with some perceiving it as ‘not a big deal’ and others experiencing the impact for years,” said Michelle Legaspi Sanchez, Executive Director of the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls. “In addition to facilitating constructive dialogues, we are working together to leverage resources that will contribute to improved employee environments in Chester County – benefiting everyone who lives, works, visits and attends schools here.”
Discussions around the topic of sexual harassment can trigger emotional responses. For anyone who may be uncomfortable or feel the need to talk to someone, please reach out to community partners like the Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County (610-692-7273) or the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County (610-431-1430). Both hotlines are free and someone is available to talk around the clock.