You may have seen the heartbreaking hashtag for “#meToo” on social media lately. If not, here is a quick run-down. In the wake of the very famous Harvey Weinstein allegations of sexual assault and harassment that are rocking the film and Hollywood world a hashtag #MeToo gained traction. Actress Alyssa Milano wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
Over a short period of a few days, millions of women (and some men) went to social media to share their experiences of harassment and abuse they have faced in their own lives and the response was massive and had a huge effect on anyone watching their social media feeds. How big is this problem? What is wrong with our culture? Facebook said that within 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the world engaged in the #metoo conversation, with over 12million posts, comments, and reactions.
For many years, there has been an imbalance of power and men’s behavior towards women has been accepted and tolerated as ‘the way things are’ and the #metoo movement (hopefully) went a long way to prove how large the problem is.
There is legislation in place in Australia against workplace harassment and discrimination, but as is abundantly clear from the #meToo campaign this doesn’t always stop it from happening. One only needs to look at the recent case of Amy Taeuber complaining of sexual harassment at channel seven http://www.smh.com.au/comment/sexual-harassment-whistleblowers-like-amy-taeuber-need-our-protection-20170926-gyp6rk.html or the recent music industry allegations from Australian Singer, Isabella Manfredi of sexual harassment. Is it sad? Absolutely. Is it surprising? Sadly, not. In Australia, nearly one in five complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission relate to sexual harassment, and the vast majority of reported incidents happened in the workplace.
I personally don’t think many females are surprised to learn of the magnitude of the problem and the imbalance that exists in countless workplaces and scenarios across most industries.
So, the question is, now that this awareness is at the forefront of public discussion, what’s going to change? Hopefully awareness is the first step towards change.
If you want to change sexual harassment or discrimination against women in your workplace, as much as a good policy will help you at litigation stage – changing the culture is the first step you need to take. When you see it, or experience it you need to call it out as inappropriate and unacceptable. Action needs to be taken at early stages, even at what you may think are harmless jokes putting down women for being women – let the offenders know that it’s not tolerated. Take action in your workplace – “casual sexism” culminates in much worse outcomes left unaddressed and not only is it against the law – its morally and ethically wrong.