Last week I was catching up with a girlfriend of mine where our updates range over all topics of work, life, husband, books we are reading all done over a glass of red wine (of course). She casually dropped into the conversation that her executive rubbed her back up and down at a work function the day before. My jaw hit the floor. ‘What the f%$*!!’ came out of my mouth. I know what you are thinking. ‘Not very ladylike’. True but necessary for the occasion.
‘Did you tell him to get off you? Did you embarrass him at the event? Did you report him?’. I was very interested in the course of action she took to address this pathetic space for a human. She nodded no. ‘I didn’t do anything. I just moved away.’ I am not sure who I am more mad at? Him or her? She then told me he had done it to many women who are career oriented and uses his power ruthlessly.
We have the #metoo campaign around the world. In Australia, we finally have a royal commission into sexual abuse and many people in power are finally starting to get convicted for their hideous actions against women. Why are then so many women suffering in silence in the working world in first world countries?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says that over 50% of women in surveys since 2005 to 2017 say they have been sexually harassed. This is outrageous. Why should women like my friend who by the way has two degrees including a masters, three children and works her butt off in making a difference to her team and organisation have to put up with this? In 2019 or ever.
I don’t have any answers. The feminist in me wants to name him as he is pretty well known. I want to slap him. I want other women to slap him and I want other men to slap hi,. Yes I know slapping is a recurring theme. I am so mad. I experienced it in the corporate world in the early 2000’s and one potential client suggested a few years ago that what services did I prove with the business being called Passionate People. I reported him to the HR department despite being consulting to this organisation. How dare he?
Is it HR role to take a complaint around sexual harassment and raise it higher? Are boards responsible for the wellbeing of their employees? Is it up to her executive to go against his peer? Is it up to her to report it? When is 50%, there is something wrong in our culture and it is not OK.
We hear about sexual harassment all over the media but this is not happening out there. It is happening right in your office or even to you.
When I worked in manufacturing, Safety was #1. Organisations would not let a machine fall and potentially injure an employee. Why then would sexual harassment and then potential emotional injury to the employee be any different? Because you cant see it? It is even worse when you cant see it. How does it affect the person with their husband or partner of with kids? What does it do to their self esteem? How do they deal with this perpetrator in the work sense where they have to sit in meetings with them? Think there is something wrong with them. And then like my friend who is considering to move organisations, this goes unnoticed. She is not going to move because of career opportunities, she is potentially going to move because of being touched up by a man who has no permission to touch her.
It is time that the Harvey’s, Tom’s, Terry’s, Jake’s and all the other men who are doing this are challenged by each of us. If you are a man and seeing this behaviour, have you got the b*&^s to do something about it? If you are woman, are you raising it? If you are a senior leader, will you live up to your values of not letting this happen.