Journalists face sexual harassment more often than other media professionals

Sixteen per cent of communications and media professionals have experienced sexual harassment over the past year.

Organisations from the sector – the Union of Journalists in Finland, the Finnish Association of Marketing, Technology, and Creativity (MTL), and the Finnish Association of Communications Professionals (Procom) – issued the results of a survey at the end of February, according to which 13 per cent of media professionals have experienced verbal sexual harassment, while 7 per cent have been subject to physical harassment, such as touching. The survey had 1 197 respondents, of whom 1 166 are professionals and 31 students.

UJF members have slightly more exposure to sexual harassment, compared to members of the other organisations that took part in the survey. Of the UJF members surveyed, 13 per cent have experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 8 per cent have been subject to physical harassment.

UJF president Hanne Aho strongly condemned sexual harassment but pointed out that the results of the survey are not particularly surprising.

“In the past, sexual harassment was the custom in Finland. Editorial offices were pretty raunchy places and some of them still are. I’d expect that those who act salaciously think very hard about whether it’s appropriate to behave like that and to discuss it in the office”, said Aho at the press conference held to announce the survey results.

She stressed that there needs to be the sort of environment for workplaces in which any form of harassment is condemned. She pointed out that physical sexual harassment is a crime.

“There should be special measures with gropers. They’re on such a moronic level that it seems talking to them isn’t enough”, said Aho.

As much as 56 per cent of respondents reported that they had been subjected to sexual harassment over a longer period. This corresponds to the findings of an earlier survey done by the UJF magazine Journalisti, in which half of the respondents said that they had experienced sexual harassment in the course of their careers

Sexual harassment is particularly directed at young people in the profession.  A third of respondents under the age of 31 had experienced sexual harassment at work. The survey shows that such harassment is not a one-off thing but happens repeatedly. Women are particularly affected, but almost one in ten male respondents had experienced sexual harassment over the past two years.

Sylva Vahtera, head of research at IRO Research and Consulting, which conducted the survey, said that the survey results are on the same lines as a survey of the Confederation of Finnish Industries. Sexual harassment in the media sector is slightly more prevalent than in others.

Most often sexual harassment is done by a colleague. For UJF members it can often be someone being interviewed or photographed. This was especially the case with respondents under the age of 31.

In workplaces, there is still a high threshold for talking about sexual harassment. Some 59 per cent of respondents said that there was no discussion of the matter with the harasser. One in five had raised the issue with a superior of the harasser. Only one per cent had filed a criminal complaint.

The threshold for talking about sexual harassment is particularly high for men, of whom 68 per cent had not done anything about the harassment they experienced. Eight per cent of UJF members said that there was sexual harassment in their workplace but that it wasn’t talked about.

Sylva Vahtera said that it from the replies to the open ended questions that the reason people didn’t report harassment had to do with previous experience of doing so or the fear that their side of the story doubted.

The respondents from the different organisations expressed the hope that there would be open discussion of the issue and rules for workplaces. They thought that open discussion would also be the best remedy as it would be easier to start to talk about the matter. The respondents said that the aim should be for zero tolerance of sexual harassment by workplaces.


(The article is an edited translation of a news piece by Marja Honkonen on the Union Magazine website)