Sexual harassment is a prevalent issue in the workplace. A 2018 online survey revealed that 81 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. Of that number, 38 percent of the harassment happened at work.
Beerud Sheth, the CEO and co-founder of Gupshup, created the Me2Bot, a chatbot designed to help victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
While men can also be victims of sexual harassment, women are disproportionately affected.
Sadly, but not entirely surprising, 75 percent of harassment instances go unreported according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's study last year.
Some victims are fearful of reporting because of possible retaliation from the harasser. Sometimes a victim's claims aren't taken seriously, or dismissed entirely, by the Human Resources (HR) department. If the harasser is in a position of authority, the victim's job could unfairly be in jeopardy.
Marketplace said that HR's main goal is to protect the company, but in cases of sexual harassment protecting the company and protecting the employee go hand in hand.
CEO Sheth said the Me2Bot similar to a "crisis hotline" that a company can set up via an internal website or app. People who experience workplace harassment can send the complaint to the chatbot. Me2Bot will redirect them to information and resources on how to deal with their case.
The chatbot isn't meant to replace resources like counselors, but tries to bridge the gap. Me2Bot can either be an improvement to existing HR departments or serve as an ambassador for companies that don't have HR.
Most importantly, Me2Bot gives victims a non-judgmental, non-confrontational channel to reach out after experiencing harassment.
Companies wanting to use the Me2Bot can use a widget, the website, or an app according to Bustle. The product's Facebook page has Messenger set up if a company wants to do a test run.
"Sometimes it helps to take personality and people out of sensitive subjects," Anindita Guha, Gupshup's Head of Product told Bustle. "It's not meant to replace counselors or other resources; it's meant to bridge a gap. A chatbot never judges and can help you speak up and save you from further harm. The timing was right and we had the technology needed to do this."
Guha is alluding to last year's #MeToo movement in which women around the world made the hashtag go viral as they shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault.
Most recently, with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, women are rallying on social media. By posting stories with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, they're showing support for the two women who've made accusations against Kavanaugh.
Of course, technology alone won't stop the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault. The root of the problem is and always has been systemic sexism. But, it's encouraging to know that there are people in tech working to address the issue.
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- The Me2Bot is a chatbot developed by startup Gupshup designed to help more victims of sexual harassment in the workplace report it.
- A bot could be useful in the beginning stages of reporting an incident because it serves as a non-judgemental channel that offers resources.
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