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How is this still happening?


A Tuesday morning driving to work listening to morning radio after picking up a coffee. A pretty normal start to the day.

On the radio they had the crew giving everyone a morning laugh. After a segment where they talked about inappropriate presents they asked for listeners to call in and share their stories.

The first few callers rang in and it was all pretty innocent and funny. But then women started calling in to tell “funny” stories about inappropriate gifts they had received at work. The woman who received crotchless knickers from her boss – and then the next day he asked her if she had tried them on yet. Another who talked about the nurses uniform she was given by her boss at a Christmas party – or the one who talked about receiving a toe ring from hers. Some of the women talked about how they left the jobs not long after receiving these “gifts”.

But then women started calling in to tell “funny” stories about inappropriate gifts they had received at work. The stories weren’t that funny anymore.

In the last few weeks we have heard about the behaviours and culture within our Federal and State Parliaments and private schools. In the last year media reports have included universities, insurance companies, the High Court and retailers. It just doesn’t seem to end.

This is a societal issue – not just a workplace issue.

I’m in my fifties and I experienced sexual harassment myself when I was younger and in the early stages of my career and working in male dominated industries. But that was nearly thirty years ago. Why is it still happening?

In short because we all let it happen.

We all turn a blind eye to it. Most of us are good and decent people who would be just as disgusted to hear about these cases as I am. All of us collectively have let inappropriate behaviors go without challenging them. We don’t always ask the individual if they are OK. We make comments like “well why did it take so long for her to report it”. Not all of us have reported sexual harassment in the workplace when we have seen it. We often have a legalistic approach to how we manage sexual harassment cases in the workplace. We refer to the “complainant” not the “victim”.

We can’t assume that if we don’t have complaints then we don’t have a problem. We have sexual harassment laws in Australia. But there is no point having laws if people are scared to report, or don’t want to be labeled a victim, think that they will not be heard anyway, or that reporting sexual harassment will impact their careers. Or if bystanders just turn a blind eye.

It needs to stop. And it will take all of us to make that happen.

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This is the third article in our International Women’s Day 2021 series, written by some of our incredible female colleagues here at Mapien. Let’s all choose to challenge, raise awareness and take action for equality. #IWD2021 #choosetochallenge

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Written by
Belinda Honey
A commercially astute, pragmatic human resources professional, Belinda has extensive experience aligning people practices with business strategies. She has a deep understanding of contemporary employee and industrial relations, which she combines with an innovative approach to improving workforce productivity.