The survey, which takes place every five years, found very few improvements since 2018. Five years later and still – one in three Australians report experiencing sexual harassment at work, and less than one in five choose to report such incidents.
For the first time, the survey asked workers about their employers. Less than half agreed their manager showed leadership in preventing and responding to sexual harassment, while more than half did not agree that their organisations provided wellbeing support during and after a report.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins called the findings “alarming and unacceptable”.
I agree… but I don’t think the findings come as a surprise.
Over the last few years, Jenkins has done a tremendous job teaching us that workplace sexual harassment and violence is driven by systemic cultural and structural factors. These taketime to dismantle.
Whenever I start to lose hope, I remind myself this: As a nation, despite the survey numbers, we have made huge progress over the last five years.
From the #MeToo movement of 2017 reigniting the conversation, to the rise of women teal independents in this year’s federal election, there is a clear and growing call for action.
And it’s not just activists in the chorus. This year, I worked directly with close to 250 men in senior management positions – across corporate Australia and the public service – through Future Women’s Change Makers program for men. There’s a genuine appetite for change from employers.
While sometimes apprehensive, one thing they all agree on is that workplaces are changing, and they want to be on the right side of history. They leave the course equipped with practical strategies and a veritable commitment to do more.
This includes recent reform to put the onus on employers to prevent and eliminate sex-based harassment and discrimination, hostile work environments and victimisation.
Having presented to hundreds on this new legislation in a live webinar recently, it’s clear to me that organisations have their ears pricked up. They’re looking for ways to be more proactive.
With this in mind, I’m hopeful that survey numbers will look better in five years’ time.
Just as I hope that in five years, we’ll see other benefits of reshaping our systems.
Will victim-survivors of sexual violence feel safe to report? Will bystanders and witnesses to harassment and abuse be empowered to take action? And will employers take accountability for what happens on their watch?
At the end of the day, all we can do is act… and hope.