YWCA Canberra members make valuable contribution to advocacy on workplace sexual harassment

27 February 2019

Towards the end of 2018, YWCA Canberra called on members to help contribute to our submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. Our anonymous survey invited members to complete a short questionnaire regarding their own experiences with workplace sexual harassment, the adequacy of formal workplace redress measures and any recommended changes they believed could be implemented.  Twenty-eight responses were received in total, with most respondents (21) indicating that they had been targeted by workplace sexual harassment.

Our written submission focused on how some of the workplace challenges faced by women have been reinforced by longstanding imbalances in the distribution of domestic labour and that these challenges have continued to multiply in the absence of workplace leadership and diversity. Without diversity at the highest levels of leadership, respondents indicated that “boys’ clubs” for senior managers had taken hold and it became difficult to voice legitimate concerns. Because the survey respondents shared their experiences and recommendations so openly, we were also able to explore some of the factors influencing women’s decision making in the workplace and the importance of transparency and objectivity in formal workplace roles.

When asked to identify workplace changes that may better support women experiencing sexual harassment, members provided input that took in a range of workplace actors, including unions, professional associations, executive leadership and workplace contact officers. These recommendations included building objectivity and equal representation into the appointment of workplace contact officers, gender diversity in leadership and better recognition of union representation.  Legislative changes that were supported by the survey respondents included encouraging equal division of parenting through reforms to paid parental leave and building a demonstrable commitment to gender equality into reporting requirements and government procurement. The absence of workplace leadership was also called out by members, who advocated for unambiguous policies relating to sexual harassment and that leadership in this space was measured and reinforced through performance reviews and bonuses.

YWCA Canberra is grateful to those members who took the time to complete this survey and share their insight into the realities of workplace sexual harassment and the adequacy of formal workplace redress.  Continuing to build the participation of members in advocacy and campaigning will be a key priority for the YWCA Canberra in 2019 and we are looking forward to capitalising on our progress in 2018. Keep an eye on your E-News and YAction bulletins to find out how you can be involved in YWCA Canberra’s advocacy.

You can read our submission on the YWCA Canberra website.

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