2 OCTOBER 2018

  • Majority of young men ‘more likely to challenge sexual harassment’ since #MeToo
  • Half of all people say that ‘what is acceptable has changed’
  • But older men – and the law – are lagging behind

New research from The Fawcett Society has found that one year on from the outpouring of #MeToo stories, there has been a significant shift in attitudes to sexual harassment. According to the research released today and supported by the law firm Hogan Lovells, the majority of people (53%) say that since #MeToo what is seen as acceptable has changed.

The biggest change has taken place in the 18-34 age group with over half of young people saying they are now more likely to speak up against sexual harassment, including 58% of young men. Older people are significantly less likely to call out inappropriate behaviour or have a conversation about sexual harassment – but they do think the boundaries have changed. 56% of men aged 55+ say that what other people think “is and isn’t acceptable” has shifted in the last year.

The Fawcett Society has accused the Government of lagging behind society when it comes to tackling harassment. Despite the scandal surrounding harassment at the Presidents’ Club dinner in January this year, legislation which would protect women from harassment by a client or a customer has still not been introduced.

Key findings of the report:

  • Overall 28% of men and 34% of women have had a conversation with someone of the same sex about sexual harassment
  • Only 16% of men aged over 55 have had a conversation with someone of the same sex about sexual harassment compared with 54% of men aged 18-34
  • Awareness of the #MeToo hashtag was high, with 43% of women and men saying they had heard of it, and 85% of those who had heard of it able to identify the hashtag
  • Knowledge of the movement has an impact – people who are aware of #MeToo are one and a half times more likely to say that the boundaries of acceptable behaviour have changed with 69% of those who were aware of #MeToo agreeing compared to 46% who were unaware.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:  

"This survey confirms that we have had a year of disruptive attitudinal and behavioural change and that was long overdue.  Other evidence shows we are also still seeing significant numbers of women being sexually harassed at work. Now it is time for tougher legislation and real, lasting culture change.

“We need to bring back section 40 of the Equality Act which would outlaw harassment from customers and clients. But we also need to go further and place a new duty on large employers to prevent discrimination and harassment. Employers have to take responsibility for their own workplace culture.

“Older men have to be part of the change because they often hold positions of power. But their attitudes are lagging behind.  They don’t seem to realise the #MeToo movement is also about them.” 

Sarah Green, Co-director, End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:

"We are a year on from the truly global explosion of #MeToo, first started by young black women who found people looked the other way when they called out sexual abuse. In the UK, despite the number of women coming forward to call out sexual harassment at work, and ever increasing numbers reporting sexual assaults to the police, we have a justice system that is resisting and has been shown to be putting women on trial for their choices and even the text messages they send their friends on their phones, rather than the perpetrators who need to be held to account.

"The women in film and the arts who stood up to say #MeToo over the last year and who built TIME’S UP as a way for us to resist together, have made it possible to have a different conversation about the daily reality of this abuse, and how it is not inevitable. The justice system, and everyone who minimises or makes excuses for this behaviour, will not be able to do so with cover for much longer. The results of the Fawcett Society’s new research are testament to the impact of these movements.”

The report recommends that the Government:

  • Reintroduces “third party harassment” laws, so that employers have a duty to protect women from clients, contractors, or patients who harass;
  • Ensures that forthcoming Relationships and Sex Education guidance refers to gender-based violence like sexual harassment;
  • Delivers on a recent commitment to review hate crime legislation and make misogyny a hate crime;
  • Introduce a new duty on large employers to prevent discrimination and harassment in their workplaces.

Read the full briefing here

For more information, infographics or interviews contact Fresh communication: 

Abby Richardson – [email protected] / 07876 378 733  

Nathalie Golden – [email protected] / 07769 66 66 27 

Editors Notes: 

This report was kindly supported by Hogan Lovells.

Data in the report draws on a nationally representative online panel survey of 2,056 individuals conducted by the polling company Survation between 13th-14th August 2018, and 31st August-2nd September 2018. Differential response rates from different groups were taken into account. Data were weighted to the profile of all adults aged 18+ in the United Kingdom. Data were weighted by age, sex, region, household income, education, 2017 general election vote and EU referendum vote. Targets for the weighted data were derived from Office for National Statistics 2011 Census data and the results of the 2017 general election and 2016 EU referendum.

Because only a sample of the full population were interviewed, all results are subject to a margin of error, meaning that not all differences are statistically significant. For the whole sample (2,056 respondents) it is 95% certain that the ‘true’ value will fall within the range of 2.2% from the sample result. Subsamples will be subject to higher margins of error. Figures throughout are rounded to the nearest % point, and may not sum due to rounding.