According to the only national and trend data on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, sexual harassment at work is widespread and progress for addressing the issue has stalled in 2012.
The results of the sexual harassment national telephone survey 2012, released on 30 October 2012 by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, shows that one in four women and one in six men have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the past five years.
Men harassing women accounts for more than half of all sexual harassment and while male harassment of men accounts for nearly a quarter, the targets of sexual harassment are more likely to be women under 40 and harassers are most likely to be male co-workers.
Whilst men can also become the targets of sexual harassment, a third of women and less than one in ten men will actually experience some form of sexual harassment in the workplace over their lifetime – making it a clear and present gender issue.
Helen Conway, Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), says “It is extremely disappointing that so many Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work.”
“In addition to the detrimental effect sexual harassment has on individuals, it should be remembered that sexual harassment also has a negative impact on organisational performance,” said Ms Conway.
But the news isn’t all bad. Bystanders are taking a more active role in preventing or reducing the harm done by sexual harassment in the workplace. The research shows that 51% of bystanders took some action when witnessing or being made aware of, an incident of sexual harassment at work.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, said the role of bystanders in reducing the impact of sexual harassment is one of the most encouraging parts of the report, Working without fear: Results of the sexual harassment national telephone survey 2012.
“Bystanders have an extremely important role to play in confronting and combating sexual harassment,” said Commissioner Broderick. “Bystanders can help to prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment and ensure safe work environments for themselves and their colleagues, but they needed to be supported and empowered.”
“Eradicating sexual harassment from our workplaces will require leadership and a genuine commitment from everyone – government, employers, employer associations, unions and employees.”
Helen Conway from EOWA has emphasised the role of employers in eradicating sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I remind all employers of the importance of taking steps to ensure their workplace is free of sexual harassment,” said Ms Conway. “This means having appropriate policies and complaints handling procedures in place, training staff and monitoring the execution of these policies and procedures to ensure they are effective.”