NEWS08/06/1810:30 AM BY JESS MCCABE
Sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour are common in the housing sector, a survey by Inside Housing has uncovered.
A survey of 225 housing professionals found widespread experience of sexism, with 40% of respondents saying they had experienced or witnessed negative comments or abusive behaviour at work towards someone because of their sex.
A great number involved sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual behaviour.
A further 23% of respondents said that they had experienced unwanted sexual advances at work, and 57% had heard inappropriate sexual comments at work directed at themselves or someone else. A total of 134 people responded to the first question and 129 to the second.
One female housing professional said: “I’ve never forgotten how angry this made me feel, and how unimportant this made me feel,” in describing an incident. Responses to the survey were anonymous.
Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “It is very worrying to find that anyone has experienced sexual harassment at work, let alone the very significant proportion of professionals who said they have in this survey.”
Very few people had made an official complaint about the incidents, with only eight respondents happy with the official response to an incident they had reported. Housing professionals said they did not report incidents because of the culture of the workplace, or because senior managers were involved.
John Gray, from the housing association branch of Unison, said he was “shocked and outraged” at the survey results, and said only a handful of recent incidents have been reported to the union. “I’m surprised at this, I’m disappointed, I’m not aware of the scale of the problem,” he said.
Sasha Deepwell, chief executive of Irwell Valley, said: “Clearly we’ve got as much of an issue as other sectors have.”
Simon Nunn, executive director of member services at the National Housing Federation, said the organisation would “facilitate conversations across the sector to discuss these results and what action could be taken to address the problem”.