A new Australian study has found that 81 per cent of people who work in “media” said they’d experienced sexual harassment in the workplace making it and the telecommunications and IT industries the biggest offenders.
The study by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that there had been a “marked” increase in rates of sexual harassment (in all industries) – up from one in four people over the last five years when the last survey was conducted in 2012 to one in three people in 2018.
According to the survey, half of people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace consider this type of behaviour “common” in their workplace, two in five were aware of someone else in their workplace being harassed in the same way, and more than half of victims said the harassment was ongoing and continued for more than six months.
For the first time, the 2018 survey also indicated which industries have the highest rates of harassment, with the information, media and telecommunications industry leading by a considerable mile (81 per cent) compared to the industry with the next highest rates, arts and recreation (49 per cent).
The survey confirmed that women are more than likely than men to experience sexual harassment. Further, those from culturally diverse communities, having a disability, being LGBTQI or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were likely to experience even higher rates of sexual harassment. Also notable was the rise in the number of young men who reported being harassed.
According to the AHRC survey, the most common negative consequence of workplace harassment was an impact on the victim’s mental health or stress, with 36 per cent of respondents reporting it had most affected them in this way. What’s more, only 17 per cent made a formal complaint, a decrease from 20 percent in the previous survey.
According to harassment advocacy group NOW Australia chair LJ Loch the increase in the rate of reporting is undoubtedly due to movements like #MeToo.
“The results are worrying, but not entirely surprising,” said Loch. “The last year has seen a global outpouring of experiences of harassment and assault in our workplaces – laying to rest any suggestion that such experiences are no longer common.”
“The results of the survey also bust the myth of the ‘confused man’ who claims the ‘new’ vigilance against sexual harassment and assault in our workplaces has left him concerned he will be called out for ‘accidentally’ putting a foot wrong.
“The survey clearly indicates that the majority of sexual harassment is part of a common, ongoing, and habitual culture of harassment,” Loch said. “This is a clear call to action for employers to actively tackle the culture within their workplaces.”