Sexual Harassment still widespread in Australian workplaces

Sexual Harassment still widespread in Australian workplaces

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has released Working without fear: Results of the sexual harassment national telephone survey 2012, which shows that sexual harassment is not only widespread in Australian workplaces, but that progress in addressing it has stalled.

“This research is conducted every four years and shows that little has changed,” Commissioner Broderick said. “It shows that approximately one in five people aged 15 years and older were sexually harassed in the workplace in the past five years, an extraordinary figure.”

The research shows that one in four women (25%) and one in six men (16%) have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the past five years. If a person’s entire lifetime is considered, the gender gap is even more profound with a third of women (33%) and less than one in ten men (9%) experiencing sexual harassment.

Targets of sexual harassment are most likely to be women under 40 and harassers are most likely to be male co-workers. Women are at least five times more likely than men to have been harassed by a boss or employer. Men harassing women accounts for more than half of all sexual harassment, while male harassment of men accounts for nearly a quarter.

Commissioner Broderick said that one of the most encouraging parts of the research concerned the role of bystanders – people who witnessed or later became aware of sexual harassment.

“Fifty-one per cent of people who were bystanders — that is over half — took some action to prevent or reduce the harm of the sexual harassment they were aware of,” she said. “Bystanders have an extremely important role to play in confronting and combatting sexual harassment.”

Commissioner Broderick said that 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, which would mean a huge shift in organisational culture.

“Sexual harassment is unlawful and has no place in Australian workplaces,” Ms Broderick said. “Eradicating sexual harassment from our workplaces will require leadership and a genuine commitment from everyone – government, employers, employer associations, unions and employees.”

The survey provides the only national and trend data on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and is available here.


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