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July 10, 2019

MaineCanDo Survey Finds Both Men and Women are Routintely Sexually Harassed at Work; Victims Fear Retaliation If They Report It

Half of the 500+ respondents say they’ve experienced sexual harassment in a Maine workplace in first of its kind research in the state

PORTLAND, ME – July 10, 2019 —  Offensive remarks and derogatory comments about gender. Leering and unwanted touching. These are the most common types of sexual harassment in Maine workplaces experienced by both men and women, according to a first-of-its-kind survey.

The research was conducted by Pan Atlantic Research for MaineCanDo, a platform designed to help individuals, employers, and investors to prevent future #MeToo incidents in the places where we work, shop, eat, and play. A total 518 people working in Maine participated, 303 of whom are employees and 216 are employers. Their insights surfaced the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment, a reluctance to report incidents because of a fear of retaliation, and a generational difference of perspective.

The opt-in survey was conducted online and via convenience sampling relying upon the lists of MaineCanDo’s partner organizations. PanAtlantic notes that the response rate yielded margins of sampling error of ±5.6% (employees) and ±6.7% (employers), but that some caution must be taken in interpreting these results. Potential sources of bias include a high number of women among employee respondents  (76.2%) and the fact that employees who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace may have been more likely (or unlikely, in the case of trauma or concerns about anonymity) to respond to the survey. You can see the full survey at

Sexual harassment is prevalent throughout Maine workplaces yet victims fear speaking up

Forty percent of respondents – male and female – say they experience some form of sexual harassment at work at least once a week. A higher proportion of women (57.6%) than men (18.8%) report having been harassed (a figure that may reflect the high number of women respondents). Witnessing sexual harassment is shared evenly between genders: nearly one quarter report having seen sexual harassment against others at work (23.4% of women and 21.9% of men).

Yet not everyone reports the offense. One reason for not reporting sexual harassment is the real and perceived threat of retaliation:

  • Employees are more inclined to believe that reporting sexual harassment puts their jobs at risk: 63.8% of employees compared to 48.7% of employers feel that a person who reports being sexually harassed is risking their career. 
  • Compounding the reluctance to report being sexually harassed, half of all employees (49.8%) believe that such reports are generally ignored.
  • These attitudes differ strongly by gender: 70.6% of female employees believe that a person who reports being harassed is risking their career compared to 39.0% of males; 55.0% of female employees believe that reports of sexual harassment in the workplace are generally ignored compared to 31.3% of male employees.
  • While 9 in 10 respondents are aware of the person in their organization to whom they would report sexual harassment, only 49-56% are aware of external resources such as local sexual assault response centers, the Maine Sexual Assault Helpline, the Maine Human Rights Council, and the U.S. EEOC.

There is also a clear generational difference that surfaced in the survey results. Sexual harassment is most commonly experienced by younger employees (57% of those age 18-34). Those young Mainers are also most likely to believe that victims get to decide what is and is not sexual harassment (50.5% strongly agree).

Moving forward; Founding members of MaineCanDo lay roadmap for change

“This research suggests that despite the awareness generated by the #metoo movement, sexual harassment in Maine is still far too common and mostly unreported by the women and men who have survived it. This group – representing 3,000 organizations collectively – came together 18 months ago to address this workplace epidemic by looking at the health of their own workplace cultures and by finding ways to help the many small businesses and non-profit organizations they serve. We hope that this work will continue to spark important “can do” conversations and commitments to action (large and small) at organizations all across the state.” – Betsy Peters, Chief Instigator & founding member MaineCanDo

“At MANP, we are committed to sharing this important information with our 950+ nonprofit members across the state. All Maine nonprofits, which represent 1 in 6 Maine workers, should have the tools and resources they need to set the tone within their organizations and support employees in harassment-free workplaces. We will integrate this education at in-person convenings, through our communications channels and in our literature.”  – Jennifer Hutchins, President of MANP & founding member MaineCanDo

“It is important for startup and growing businesses to understand the negative impact of sexual harassment on workplace productivity, culture, and success. This research indicates that sexual harassment is impacting people of all genders negatively in Maine, and at very prevalent rates. I have integrated these key findings, along with information and resources from, into curriculum for my venture creation and triple bottom line business classes. Ensuring that the workplace is free from sexual harassment is an important social responsibility of business. Education provides a good platform to inform and facilitate these critical discussions,” – Richard Bilodeau, Lecturer of Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Business, University of Southern Maine

“CEI is sharing the MaineCanDo sexual harassment prevention resources with the over 2,000 businesses we finance and advise on an annual basis. Internally, CEI is building on existing HR practices and in-person staff sexual harassment training, incorporating best practices, such as making sure everyone knows the steps they can take if they witness inappropriate behavior.”  – Betsy Biemann, CEO of CEI

“The results of this survey should help guide meaningful strategies to foster respectful, safe and inclusive workplace cultures. At MTI, the results have already led to staff-wide training on unconscious bias to improve organizational culture, increase awareness and to inform better decision-making.  Additionally, we are now collecting new demographic information from our applicants to better understand who we are serving and what populations remain under-represented.” – Brian Whitney, President of the Maine Technology Institute

“These survey answers are a wake up call. This new knowledge can spur more Maine-based enterprises to rethink their workplace cultures. Having a written policy and conducting training is just the beginning. Empower bystanders to speak up. Have more women in senior roles. Colleagues, bosses, funders, grantees all need to understand and talk publicly about our roles in the various power dynamics at work if we are going to change systems.” – Christen Graham, President of Giving Strong, Inc. & founding member MaineCanDo

“We are so grateful for this research which gives voice to victims of sexual harassment and that reflects what Maine’s sexual assault support centers are hearing from victims in Maine. We hope that victims of sexual harassment know that Maine’s sexual assault support centers are available 24-7 as a free confidential resource to receive support and discuss their options (1-800-871-7741).  In addition, those agencies are available to support workplaces in their communities to provide training and resources as they work to improve their office cultures. At MECASA we are committed to continuing to work on statewide public policy solutions to address sexual harassment with partners like the Maine Human Rights Commission.”  – Elizabeth Ward Saxl, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA) & founding Member of MaineCanDo

“These survey results equip and empower all of us to assert that sexual harassment won’t be tolerated. As investors and consumers our dialogue around the issue is the most powerful counterpoint, choosing to deploy our capital in enterprises that mirror our values, and to hold them accountable.” – Sandra Stone, angel investor and founding member of MaineCanDo

The full survey questions and answers are available at the MaineCanDo platform:

About MaineCanDo

MaineCanDo is a platform designed to help individuals, employers, and investors to prevent future #MeToo incidents in the places where we work, shop, eat, and play. Website visitors have access to a variety of research and practical resources that include sample workplace policies, check-lists and best practices. It is also a venue for a community of nearly 400 companies and individuals who have signed a pledge to lead the change in the #MeToo era.

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