As 2015 became 2016, three separate incidents of women facing sexism in the workplace were in the news.
Federal Liberal MP Jamie Briggs stepped down as minister when it was alleged he had made unwanted advances to a female public servant.
Journalist Samantha Maiden reported on the incident, and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton responded to her commentary by calling her a witch in a text message – he intended to send it to a colleague, but he sent it to Maiden. He apologised.
Then cricketer Chris Gayle rebuffed journalist Mel McLaughlin’s attempts to interview him about a game and chose instead to ask her out for drinks, calling her ‘baby.’ He was fined, and the debate about the right or wrong of it was heated.
In response to these three incidents, Professor Jayne Lucke, director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society wrote an article that was published by The Conversation. She argues that it can be difficult to define and understand sexual harassment.
Even when a harassment case would seem clear, they can be handled badly by a workplace, as in the case of this record Australian payout from 2013. But both men and women in the workforce need to understand what it means and how to deal with it if they want to get ahead in 2016. Let’s look at Professor Lucke’s main points.
What behaviour is classed as sexual harassment?
Jayne Lucke draws from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s parameters when defining harassment and argues that,
‘An incident can be considered sexually harassing is if it is unwelcome, non-consensual and disrespectful to the recipient.’
Who is most likely to be a sexual harasser?
Jayne argues that there’s no such thing as a typical sexual harasser. She writes, ‘Harassers are represented at all ages and levels of social status and occupation, and may be intentionally malicious or simply ignorant about appropriate standards of behaviour.’ There are really no predictors.
What do these cases tell us?
Jayne argues that these cases tell us two different things – first, that there is still a problem with sexual harassment and women being treated unprofessionally by men while doing their jobs. Second, the fact that these men have received negative feedback from their behaviour shows that there is a recognition of the problem. Jayne Lucke:
‘Swift sanctions have been imposed on Jamie Briggs and Chris Gayle demonstrating recognition of the need to respond effectively to incidents of sexual harassment. However, we clearly need to keep working to ensure that everyone is educated about respectful behaviour in the workplace.’
What can you do to avoid sexually harassing anyone, or if you are being sexually harassed?
Are you interested in working on issues surrounding sex, health and society? Read more about our courses.
Image: People by Start Up Stock Photos (CC 0.1.0)