Sexual harassment of academic staff at higher education institutions in South Africa
Joubert, Pierre André
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The efforts to create an equal non-discriminatory South African society should also manifest in the workplace and, more specifically, in the academic arena. Academics are regarded as the leaders of society and the shapers of the future of a country. Their conduct should be of the highest ethical and moral standards, and no form of discrimination should be allowed by or against them. In terms of the Employment Equity Act, sexual harassment is a form of unfair discrimination and carries a substantial penalty should an employer be found guilty of vicarious liability. The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived incidence of sexual harassment of academic staff at higher education institutions in South Africa, as well as their awareness of the policies dealing with sexual harassment. The sufficiency of the grievance procedures designed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment was also evaluated. A cross-sectional survey design was used to reach the research objectives. The Sexual Harassment Questionnaire (SHQ) was randomly distributed amongst a sample of 710 academic staff members from 10 higher education institutions in South Africa. A response rate of 22,8 percent (n = 162) was achieved. The statistical analysis was carried out using the SPSS 15.0 program (SPSS 2007), a program that is used to conduct statistical analysis regarding reliability and validity of the measuring instruments, descriptive statistics, /-tests, analysis of variance, correlation coefficients and multiple regression analysis. Article 1 focuses on the perceived incidence of sexual harassment. In this article, five categories of sexual harassment were used as indicators of the incidence thereof, namely verbal, non-verbal, physical, gender and quid pro quo harassment. A statistically significant correlation coefficient with a large effect was found between verbal and non-verbal harassment. A practically significant correlation of a medium effect was also found between physical, verbal, non-verbal and quid pro quo harassment and sexism, as well as between the control item of sexual harassment and physical, verbal, non-verbal and quid pro quo harassment. Analyses of variance were performed on the different demographic groups using various variables and the findings indicate no practically significant effect of gender, age, population group or years of service on sexual harassment. In Article 2, the awareness of sexual harassment policies and procedures were determined. Various aspects of policies were investigated, such as content, development, types and implementation. The results show that despite indications that sexual harassment policies do exist and that they are regarded as effective tools in addressing sexual harassment, the implementation of such policies is not effective. In addition, few academic staff members receive training/guidance on the utilisation of these policies. Significant correlation coefficients were found between the elements of an effective policy and between population groups and some of the elements. Article 3 reports on findings regarding the sufficiency of grievance procedures in dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. The results show a positive correlation between confidence in the grievance procedure, the amount of attention that supervisors pay to grievances, regular feedback to employees regarding the progress of grievances, willingness of supervisors to take decisions, the amount of confidence in supervisors and the effectiveness of the procedure. The reluctance of management to deal with grievances unless they are reported via the grievance procedure was related to the perceived effectiveness of the procedure.