I blog for Change…

As I attempt to orient the windy and often treacherous roads that encapsulate life, here are some of my thoughts on the successes, failures and ultimately the hope and positivity in which I strive for a better world. I also hope that I can use this blog as a platform to elevate the social justice issues that are somewhat forgotten in the modern discourse of staying silent on issues that challenge. Sx

#16Days – Unwanted Sexual Advances in the Workplace – Australia

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As a millennial woman in the modern day workforce I understand the strives that have been made on my behalf by the women who have preceded me to afford me with a place here at all. Even less than 30 years ago it would have been unthinkable for a young woman approaching 30 to be prioritising her career over anything else, yet here I am as are many others like me doing exactly that.

However, in spite of these tremendous gains allowing women in the front door of formalised employment we continue to be treated far less than equal in the workforce. The amount of stories I have heard from working women who have experienced some form of sexual intimidation, aggression, unwanted advances or harassment in the workforce is staggering to say the least.

Statistics will show that even after 24 years of legislation against sexual harassment in the workforce being in place in this country, it is still rampant in its existence. A recent study indicated that targets of such harassment are overwhelmingly more likely to be women under the age of 40. Therefore identifying that sexual harassment in the work place disproportionately affects young women more than any other segment of the population.

This fact is one which isn’t really surprising if you think about it. Within my broader friendship circle alone I have been told of incidences in which young women, new to their jobs or roles have been intimidated into putting up with unwanted sexual advances due to the perpetrators being in roles senior and more influential to them. Or even as far as feeling the pressure to actively engage in these acts when they are thrown their way fearing that the consequences of speaking up will be towards losing their jobs altogether.

There is then the connotation of fear involved in which if accusations are brought to the surface, the whole ‘who are you more likely to believe’ scenario will come out to play. In some of the worst instances I have been privy to, young single women’s ‘reputations’ will be pointed to by the assailant who of course is older and more senior to them. This will be the ‘evidence’ to tarnish her reputation in order to save face in spite of the fact that the incident occurred in the first place. Because, I mean “of course she initiated it first in order to climb the corporate ladder and sleep her way to the top”.

The truth is that most incidences of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances go unreported. For most women the idea of raising the concern in the first place is one which they will first think twice about before initiating; if they raise at all. For single women it is even more nuanced. In which the fear of the association with a perceived ‘promiscuity’ in their personal lives and the inevitable smearing of their character is enough to put them off saying anything at all.

According to the Australian Lawyers Alliance “Under-reporting of sexual harassment raises valid concerns that currently, women would rather quit than endure a sexual harassment complaints process in which they may find themselves labelled a troublemaker”. What a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in when a woman feels she has to endure harassment, aggression and abuse in order to save her vocation.

This is yet another reference point to the gender biased victim blaming mentality that we have fallen privy to. We have a responsibility to influence for change in this country and to promote a culture in which women feel safe to speak up against those who are responsible for these acts.

End. – Day 3.

*Reference point above: https://www.lawyersalliance.com.au/opinion/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-when-enough-is-enough

For more information on the legislation: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/guides/sexual-harassment

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Author: es.el.gee

Sabene is a development practitioner, activist, writer, blogger and intersectional feminist. She currently works for CBM Australia and manages its India portfolio of Community Based Inclusive Development programs. Sabene’s expertise specialises in the intersection of gender and disability with a specific focus on South Asia and the Pacific. She is passionate about equality and social justice and serves as the Co-Director of Catalyst Co-Lab, an advocacy and rights based group which aims to raise awareness and empower active citizens and agents of change.

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