In the wake of the Weinstein sexual abuse allegations and the #MeToo phenomenon, sexual harassment has become a hot topic of discussion in the Australian workplace. How quickly we all become experts on what is and what is not sexual harassment. Yes, everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a story. But does anybody have a solution?

The unfortunate reality is that 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. It’s been that way for years. Yet one might say that it takes high-profile celebrities and media attention to get this on the executive agenda. But it is there now. Perhaps it will start to get the attention that it deserves!

1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

A mentor of mine once suggested that we should forget about the elephants and watch out for the fleas. These are very wise words that apply to many situations in our personal and professional lives. Including sexual harassment!

Who are the ELEPHANTS?

We all know that it is far more common for a female to experience sexual harassment. The figure above states that 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. It does not mean that 1 in 3 men sexually harass women in Australian workplaces. The reality is that fewer than 1 in 10 men are responsible for sexual harassment. So, let’s call those 1 in 10 the elephants. The ones acting inappropriately and polluting our workplaces. Of course, some elephants are bigger than others, but at the end of the day, an elephant is an elephant, and let’s label it that and move on to the fleas.

Who are the FLEAS?

Chances are that you are not an elephant. But does that really make you a flea? Yes, it does! Fleas are the rest of us, which makes up most people in Australian workplaces. It’s all of us, bystanders. Those of us who choose to turn a blind eye, whether it be deliberately or ignorantly. Those of us who choose to join in because we think something is just a bit of fun or stay quiet because we don’t have the strength to stick up for what is right. Those of us who don’t want to speak up are at risk of being caught in a tough situation—those of us who care more for our own security than that of a work colleague. Yes, I’d like to suggest that every single one of us has been in a position where we could have done a little more to prevent or react to a situation that has taken place. There are times when we all could have acted in a more appropriate manner.

Is there a solution?

Perhaps the solution sits in each of us. Perhaps our focus should start with fleas rather than elephants. Perhaps sexual harassment is not going to go away anytime real soon. Perhaps we can all play a small part in reducing a 1 in 3 figure, to a 1 in 4, to a 1 in 6, to a 1 in 10, to a 1 in 100.

It might take us 10 years, or it might take us 100 years, but we must start somewhere.

Might there be a time when we look back and say, can you believe that humans used to treat each other like that in the workplace? I want to think there is a chance, and I challenge you to play a part in making that a reality!

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