Over the course of the past week, you've probably read the name Harvey Weinstein more than you ever had before. After the publication of a The New York Times exposé, the world has been circulating and dissecting the series of sexual harassment allegations made against the cinematic heavyweight. More than a week since the initial reports were made public, the publication now believes that more than two dozen women have accused Weinstein of assault or harassment—including high profile actors like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Cara Delevingne.
While we live far away from Hollywood’s spotlight, the problem still resonates loudly closer to home. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, it was found that approximately one in three women aged between 18–64 in Australia have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. Which is why we’re taking a moment to reflect on practical steps all women can take in the workplace to address this far-reaching issue head-on. We spoke to Jo Skipper, director of HR company The Next Step, to shed some light on practical and actionable ways you can reclaim safety in your professional spheres.
Read on to see what she had to say.
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
"Under the discrimination law; it is unlawful to treat a person less favourably on the basis of their sex, race, disability, or age. Telltale signs of harassment towards women can include; telling insulting jokes, making derogatory comments, and asking intrusive questions about someone's personal life. It can also include displaying offensive posters or screensavers, or sending suggestive emails and/or text messages. Women should trust their instincts—if it makes you feel uncomfortable then it probably isn't 100 percent appropriate."
WHAT STEPS CAN YOU TAKE?
"All employers have a responsibility to ensure their workplace is safe and that employees are treated fairly. And a safe workplace is one the limits the risk of physical harm but also psychological harm. The first step to take is to speak to your direct manager and/or someone in your human resources department. Most organisations will have a clear process to investigate the alleged harassment situation. Like the current Harvey Weinstein allegations, it is never too late to report an incident. However, the more time between the incident happening and the reporting of the situation makes it more challenging to resolve."
HOW TO SEEK SUPPORT
"Women who do feel unsafe in the workplace should seek professional third-party assistance during this time. If your employer has a relationship with an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), reach out to them immediately. They have highly skilled, trained professionals who can provide action-oriented advice to support you. Each state also has a WorkSafe authority and WorkSafe have an advisory number that you can call and seek assistance from.
"I would also highly advise women who have experienced harassment speak to a professional counsellor or psychologist. You will no doubt experience a myriad emotions that will play out post the experience, and may last for months or years. A professional will again be able to provide tools and skills to manage this process."