For many people from all walks of life, experiences of sexism in the workplace are far too common. While everyone has an important role to play in combatting sexism, men are uniquely situated to press for change because they hold the majority of positions of power.
New Catalyst research reveals that a climate of silence in the workplace can play a significant role in men’s willingness and ability to interrupt sexist behavior. When speaking up is not encouraged by those who hold power in organizations, employees are more likely to remain quiet when witnessing sexism against women.
Our research findings inform important action steps that companies and leaders can take to break this climate of silence and create more fair and inclusive workplace cultures.
- An overwhelming majority of men (86%) say they are personally committed to interrupting sexist behaviors when they see them in the workplace, yet only 31% feel confident in their ability to do so.
- Organizational climates in which silence is the norm suppress men’s instincts to speak up. Our survey showed that as organizational silence increases, men are:
• 50% less likely to be committed to interrupting sexist behavior at work.
• 40% less likely to be confident in their ability to address directly people who engage in sexist behaviors at work.
- Men who perceive higher levels of silence recognize: more interpersonal costs, more work-related costs, and fewer benefits of confrontation.
“This report is a call to action for organizational leaders to diagnose and address symptoms of a climate of silence and equip men with skills to effectively address day-to-day incidents of sexism in the workplace.”