Sexual harassment plagues air stewardesses

Almost half of air stewardesses have been subjected to lewd behaviour and offensive remarks from their colleagues and managers, and more than one in five said they have been sexually harassed by a passenger, according to a recent survey.

More than one in 10 of the 2,000 female flight attendants questioned said they had been sexually pestered by a colleague in the past 12 months and a third of them classified the incident as severe, according to a study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

There was also clear evidence of a link between sexual harassment and poor health. Women who reported being harassed by passengers were almost three times more likely to rate their health as fair or poor. Working irregular hours and disrupted sleep were also thought to be contributing factors.

The authors of the report said the study should be used as a benchmark for other frontline workers. “The effect of sexual harassment by passengers on the health of flight attendants may be relevant to other working women dealing with the public,” they said.

Sexual harassment was defined as receiving unwanted attention, being propositioned, groped, subjected to offensive remarks about personal appearance, shown sexually explicit material, being threatened, blackmailed, or subjected to attempted non-consensual sexual acts.

More than three-quarters of female flight attendants who had children also said it was difficult to juggle motherhood and an erratic work schedule.

“The effects of family and work conflicts, low job satisfaction and sexual harassment should be explored more in depth… among working women in various occupations not just the airline industry,” the authors said.

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