Google walkouts puts workplace sexual harassment back on the public radar
On Friday 2 November, around 300 Google staff in Sydney walked off the job as part of a global workforce protesting the company’s inaction on sexual harassment in the workplace. This global action followed a New York Times report that found the company paid $90 million to Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’, who had been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint.
Organisers of the protest called for “a clear uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously” to curb the trend of the company putting the interests of management ahead of the health and wellbeing of their employees”.
The walkouts are timely with sexual harassment and women’s right to a safe workplace free of bullying and harassment at the forefront of the public concern.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fourth national survey details the nature and extent of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said:
“The results of the survey are perhaps more timely and more relevant in 2018 than ever before, with the huge surge in public concern about sexual harassment generated by the #MeToo movement around the world, including in Australia.”
The key findings of this survey were:
- 85 per cent of Australian women had been sexually harassed at some point in their lives;
- Overwhelmingly perpetrators over the past five years were male (79 per cent);
- In the last 12 months, 23 per cent of women compared to 16 per cent of men have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment;
- Most common form of harassment was sexually suggestive comments or jokes;
- 81 per cent of workplace harassment was reported by the Information, Media and Telecommunications industry;
- Fewer than one in five respondents made a formal complaint or report about being sexually harassed; and
- Only 35 per cent of bystanders acted to prevent or reduce the harm of the harassment.
Professionals Australia’s Women in STEM Professionals report found that:
- Over half of the respondents (51 per cent) had been sexually harassed in the course of their employment;
- Of those who had experienced discrimination, only 15 per cent of respondents had sought advice on dealing with the matter;
- 13 per cent had left their workplace; and
- 47 per cent took no action at all.
In June this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission announced a National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment. The Inquiry will be headed up by Kate Jenkins and has had wide political, union, business and community support. The Inquiry is expected to report back in September 2019.
The Women in STEM report recommends:
In order to move towards a safe work environment, ideally diversity and inclusion should be part of an organisation’s core values with sexual harassment policies in place. Managers must be accountable for their implementation, reporting harassment should not be penalised, and the implementation process must be confidential, transparent, objectively heard and administered by trained personnel. Only then can the disincentives or penalties associated with reporting harassment be minimised or removed.
- DOWNLOAD: Professionals Australia Women in STEM Professions Report
- AHRC: Everyone’s business: Fourth National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces
- Sexual harassment at work is on the rise in Australia, the Human Rights Commission says
- Foreword: Sex Discrimination Commissioner
- INQUIRY: Australia to launch national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment
- Sexual harassment in the workplace – INFOGRAPHICS