‘Enough to enough’: Call to action to end sexual harassment in workplaces
When workplace relations partner Fay Calderone called for the leaders of Australia to stand up against sexual harassment in their workplaces, she was met with silence.
Three weeks ago, workplaces across legal and non-legal spaces were tasked with honouring the commitment of women on International Women’s Day (IWD). The following week, women and allies across Australia took to the streets to protest their continued mistreatment. This week, some leaders are still yet to speak up.
In a call-out to those same leaders, Hall & Wilcox employment and workplace relations partner Fay Calderone asked that they “step up and take a stand against sexual harassment in their workplaces” using the hashtag #NotOnMyWatch. At the time of writing, those calls were going unanswered across many social media sites.
“A seemingly simple ask. Indeed, a requirement mandated by law for more than 40 years. A requirement most organisations and leaders commit to in their very own policies and procedures. Yet publicly, silence. Crickets. Why?” Ms Calderone asked.
Ms Calderone said that to speak out publicly would not mean that conduct as a leader, bystander or creator of the culture in the organisation would be “beyond reproach”. It would, however, illustrate that they have heard women across Australia, “felt the seismic shift in the women’s movement” and chosen that “as a front-line leader in any organisation, large or small, will not tolerate sexual harassment”.
She added that these calls for a pledge from leaders are not helped by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is still yet to take any meaningful action but has resorted to “veiled threats” in a press conference against a News Ltd journalist.
On Tuesday, 23 March, Mr Morrison responded to a question of whether his job would be in jeopardy as a result of the many allegations against Liberal ministers with a now-debunked claim that a woman was pursuing a complaint within the media company over an allegation that she was assaulted in a women’s bathroom. He told the journalist to not sit “in glass houses” while “getting into” his position as a leader.
Ms Calderone has used the call to action to ask that leaders not “shrug off, laugh off or walk past” anything that could constitute sexual harassment and they should also be ready and willing to speak up against misconduct “that occurs on your watch”.
If a complaint is made, leaders should “investigate and if substantiated, discipline and exit perpetrators of sexual harassment regardless of their clients, relationships, revenue, technical skills, perceived brilliance or commercial value” – all of which should be diminished the moment they are found to have engaged in misconduct.
Ms Calderone said it is time to stand up and make a more positive statement about what leaders will commit to and what they will not tolerate. She said they must also be prepared to put their names and their personal brands to the commitment.
“Silence allows the failings of our system, toxic workplace cultures, sexual harassment and the dysfunction that ensures to perpetuate. This can’t be the standard we are prepared to walk past as leaders. This can’t be what we want for our country, our organisations, our workplace, our teams, our people, our children,” she said.