Leading Australian businesses who have been keen to stamp out sexual harassment for decades are now coalescing around a ground-breaking movement to finally end harassment in the workplace, signing a public pledge which shows their enduring commitment to a zero-tolerance policy.
The move comes as the national conversation about the treatment of women moves ahead apace, and recommendations by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins have garnered a verbal commitment from the Federal government to honour the suggestions “in full, in part or in principle.”
The #IStandForRespect pledge is co-ordinated by Diversity Council Australia (DCA), and to date signed by an ever-increasing list of CEOs, currently numbering more than 100 – including from leading banks, professional services firms, resources companies, multinational organisations, universities, legal firms, and not for profits. The pledge asks businesses to commit to two simple steps:
- Stand against gendered harassment and violence in all its forms
- Commit to taking steps in their organisation to address sexual and sex-based harassment, to make the workplace safe for everyone.
Lisa Annese, CEO of DCA, and founder of the initiative, said signing the pledge was a chance for Australian business leaders to show the world they stand up for respect, and make a public commitment to end the scourge of sexual harassment. Which, in addition to creating dysfunctional and unsafe workplaces, is conservatively estimated to cost the Australian economy $3.8 billion.
Ms Annese explained, “Sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces since 1984, yet it’s still a problem. Now is the time to move from words to committed, collective action. I believe addressing sexual harassment and gendered violence is the business of every business. Twenty-three per cent of women and sixteen per cent of men experience sexual harassment, so it’s not just a ‘woman problem’.
“Sometimes, the personality that will predate and sexually harass will likely bully and intimidate and cause serious cultural damage to a business. Ironically, they are often allowed to do so because they are seen as ‘untouchable’ or ‘rain-makers’ in an organisation.
“No one makes it rain worth almost four billion dollars – which is what sexual harassment costs in terms of productivity loss and having to replace and rehire the people who are on the wrong side of a harasser.
“The bottom line is this: businesses can’t afford not to tackle sexual harassment. The #IStandForRespect pledge is a starting point, a way for them to be part of the change that will come.”
CEOs who signed the pledge added their voices to Ms Annese’s, can be found here: https://www.dca.org.au/campaigns/istandforrespect/pledges