By Laura Warnod, Unlock Jobs Action Group Member, France
As a young French female worker with socioeconomic privileges, I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a supportive and loving environment and receive excellent education in Europe . I have the privilege of doing what I’ve always dreamed of, building my own organization, and becoming the leader I aim to be.
But with privilege comes responsibility. Harassment, violence, and sexual harassment at work and in schools know no social or economic barriers; it’s a disease that touches everyone. It is something I have witnessed all around me, something I have experienced, and something that is now ingrained in my mentality and narratives about work.
Like 1 in 2 women in France, I have experienced sexual harassment at school, in the underground, in the streets, and everywhere else. Not a single day passes without hearing stories from close friends who are witnessing or experiencing physical, psychological, sexual, or emotional harassment as they enter their first jobs and start their careers. From the stories of these young workers, I have noticed a real and widespread lack of awareness, education, and training on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to prevent and respond to it in the workplace. This perpetuates the issue repeatedly.
According to a survey conducted by the French Ministry of Labor, 20% of young workers in France have experienced some form of workplace harassment or violence, and 30% of women have experienced sexual harassment. These figures are alarming, and we must ensure that the future of young people is protected from any forms of harassment and that they are able to work in a safe and respectful environment.
On April 13th, France finally adopted the ILO Convention C190, a new international labor standard that addresses violence and harassment in the workplace, specifically gender-based violence, which is critical to mitigate the impact of domestic violence and unequal gender-based power relations. This is a significant win, but it is not enough.
The state needs to take appropriate measures to prevent violence and harassment at work, provide supportive measures to victims, monitor and enforce national laws that ensure workers’ right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations. There need to be comprehensive policies, education, and training programs in schools and at work for students, employers, and workers on what constitutes this convention, what constitutes violence and harassment at work, and how to prevent them through effective reporting systems to protect the victim, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that employers and individuals who violate the law are held accountable.
Enforcing the law and putting measures in place is the foundation. But this foundation will never sustain if there is no proper cultural shift in society and at work in how sexual harassment is perceived in France. According to the Haut Conseil à l’Egalité annual report on the state of sexism in France, 23% of men believe that it is sometimes necessary to be violent to be respected, and that too much is being made of sexual assaults.
It is not enough to simply adopt laws and policies; there needs to be a fundamental change in attitudes and behaviors. This requires the involvement of all stakeholders, including employers, workers, government officials, and civil society organizations, to work towards creating a culture of respect and zero-tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is a critical issue that affects young workers, especially women, in France. I am proud of my government for setting the first stone to the foundation of a clear initiative that could change the future of young people and sexism in France, but this is just the beginning. All real efforts need to start now.
By Laura Warnod
Unlock Jobs Action Group Member, France