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Sexual Harassment – What do you suggest a preventative system would look like?

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Sexual harassment continues to be a problem as highlighted by ‘Insight’ on Channel SBS. The stories shared by Jemma and the other panelists were shocking. Our system is failing our community and it is failing our women.

The conversation from the audience was interesting but unfortunately no solution was identified. Interestingly, incidents occurred where alcohol and work related parties/activities were occurring. This experience is true from many of our own investigations.  Casual attitudes equal casual behaviours.

Doing more of the same seems pointless, and something needs to be done to disrupt this status quo. Increased legislation, increased damages and regulation are not providing the results we need. People (leaders in organisations) are failing their people. HR is more often than not powerless to solve incidents. The political framework and the cost benefit analysis of losing a ‘gun’ employee who is a perpetrator is a barrier to change.  Too often people make a decision to ‘settle’ and make the problem go away rather than deal in a mature fashion with the perpetrator.  Lives and families can be changed forever.

Most concerning from the interviews on Insight was the attitude of not complaining because its ‘too hard’, ‘too damaging’, ‘too expensive’. Under reporting of incidents is a problem and we do not truly know the extent of the problem.

Why is it that we still endure this problem in 2014?  Laws were created in the mid 1980’s to deter this behaviour however it still continues. The cost to people, organisations and our productivity cannot be understated. A different, more holistic approach is needed and perhaps have elements such as these:

  • The most serious of sexual harassment incidents that involve sexual assault ought to be criminalised as was serious workplace bullying in Victoria;
  • An effective weapon against sexual harassment is prevention;
    • create an environment and system where people can speak up without fear;
    • use independent 3rd parties to allow for disclosures and representation of employees (HR is not trusted);
    • act quickly to intervene without blame, make it hard for alleged behaviour to continue unnoticed – rather like a thief who moves away from a secure target;
    • DO NOT do nothing when an employee discloses – treat a disclosure like you would a machine missing a guard or a trip hazard;
    • risk profile workplaces and teams – establish systems where lead indicators of behavioural risk can be identified and acted upon;
  • Establish mandatory reporting on organisational performance in regard to incidents, and preventative governance measures (policy suite, training, systems and procedures);
  • Only employee temporary contractors that can certify that they have their own robust training and compliance regime in place just as we do with OH&S accreditation or certifications;

I am sure other measures can be designed to assist. Organisations are not doing enough, regulation and legislation must step up.

We conducted our own research of Australian workers and found sadly, that 37% of people reporting sexual harassment felt that no-one cared and were told to ‘toughen up’ by their manager. This was the case for Jemma on the ‘Insight’ program.

Alarmingly, 24% of cases reported that organisations (people & leaders) either did nothing or made matters worse and 11% of people experiencing sexual harassment felt sad, alone, and had contemplated suicide.

Here is one story of the hundreds we received through our research:
“This takes place nearly every day. It ranges from men trying to put their hands down my top to trying to kiss me and ‘feel me up’. They make inappropriate advances to me and when I take it to my manager he just laughs. Generally there are people around when this happens but it gets worse when no-one is around. On employee came around to my house in the middle of the night, banging on my door and texting me. My manager is someone I thought I could go to but, nothing changes. I have to leave my job.”

And another:
“Whilst one of my female colleagues was bending over, a male colleague came up behind her and simulated sex”

Research Statistics
14% of people complained to their manager;
16% took legal action;
10% resigned;
23% took long term sick leave (more than 30 days);
12% reported bad behaviour toward them was copied by others;
30% of people did not report it;
(people under 34 years of age are most at risk)

Industry Sector Statistics – The Top 5
Hospitality = 22% of sexual harassment reports;
Business & Finance = 16%;
Retail = 15%;
Transport = 14%;
Emergency Services = 12%;

State & Territory Statistics
Tasmania – 18%;
Queensland – 14%;
Western Australia – 13%;
New South Wales – 12%;
South Australia – 12%;
Victoria – 11%;
Northern Territory – 11%
Australian Capital Territory 7%

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Emma Watson – He for She – A Gender Equality Movement

I think Emma Watson spoke for all forward thinking people in our community when she inspired and moved the UN audience through her presentation in 2014. Her presentation to the UN was a nervous one, but one full of hope and expectation and was a call to action. Scroll to the end of this Blog to see her UN presentation. But here Emmsa speaks further about the ‘He for She’ movement on International Women’s day in 2015.

EWThe Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in Australia recently released its groundbreaking research on gender equality. After you watch Emma, scroll down for fast facts from this significant research:

Fast Facts:

  • women comprise a quarter of management positions despite making up half the workforce;
  • Women are paid 24.7 per cent less than men who perform the same work;
  • 13.6 per cent of employers have a strategy for flexible working and only 7.1 per cent of employers have an articulated stand-alone strategy to achieve gender equality.

Just under half the 11000 employers covered by the report offered paid parental leave on top of the scheme introduced by the former Labor government.

Gender Equality Agency director Helen Conway said the message from the report was that “at every level the workplace pipeline is blocked for women”.

Key Findings:

  • While making up 48.5 per cent of the workforce, women account for just 35.8 per cent of full-time employees and only 17.3% of CEO/Head of Business positions
  • Men fill 76.24%of directorships, 88.12%of board chairmanships and 82.7% of chief executive positions.
  • The proportion of women declines as management levels approach the chief executive level, with women comprising less than 30% of CEOs’ direct report.
  • The gender pay gap is almost 19.9% for base pay but rises to almost 25 % for total remuneration.
  • The biggest total remuneration gender gap is in financial and insurance services (36.1 per cent), while the narrowest gap is in education and training (9.6 per cent).
  • While almost one in every two employers has a gender remuneration strategy, only 18.1 per cent have pay equity objectives as part of the strategy.

Protect or Perpetrate

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Bully or bystander. Is it the same thing?

In Lt General Morrison address at the June 2014 global summit to end sexual violence in conflict – made a bold and powerful statement – polarising debate – engaging people behind his call for an end to sexual violence and greater equality for women in military roles in times of conflict.

Every day at Risk to Business we work in businesses who find themselves ‘surprised’ by the behaviour of some of their employees. I am very glad that Morrison has spoken out – and it is relevant for all work places.

He showed insights and strong leadership to make his statement , particularly in face of recent allegations about inappropriate behaviour in the Australian Defence Force. Morrison has said “enough.Here is the report.

Morrison states that  “They (soldiers) either protect or perpetrate”.  In other words there is no middle ground. If you see bullying and do nothing about it then you too are a perpetrator. Ignoring someone in pain – turning a blind eye – not helping is condoning the behaviour of the perpetrator and makes the witness one too/

His comment is very relevant to my earlier blog about ‘Bullies & Bystanders

Morrison also said: “There are no bystanders — the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” And I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Do you agree? – Let me know your thoughts

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