A voluntary survey of Australian STEM professionals has found that half of all female respondents had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and respondents who identified as LGBTQI+ were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment at work.
Conducted to inform a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the survey had nearly 300 responses from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals from across the country.
President of Science & Technology Australia (STA), Professor Emma Johnston AO, said it was an important reminder that the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector had a lot of work to do to address sexual harassment.
“30% of respondents felt that their workplace policies were not sufficient in preventing sexual harassment, and one third felt that the policies were inadequate when it came to responding to reported incidents,” said Professor Johnston.
“These findings indicate a lack of confidence in workplace processes among some in the STEM workforce, something that must be addressed urgently.”
She said according to the survey, sexual harassment was less prevalent in respondents’ workplaces where there was a perceived gender balance.
“Research shows that workplaces that have an equal, or close to equal representation of men and women, have lower rates of sexual harassment – and our survey reveals similar trends.”
“It is yet another example of why gender equity is important to Australian businesses,– achieving gender balance at all levels in the work force has far-reaching benefits for organisations.”
Among the recommendations that STA made to the Australian Human Rights Commission were better public awareness campaigns for reporting sexual harassment, compulsory accredited training for all workplaces, and federal funding for a National Action Plan.
“We hope to see this Inquiry spark an Australia-wide movement to make our workplaces safer,” Professor Johnston said.
“Speaking on behalf of our members, who represent more than 70,000 STEM professionals, we stand ready to support action to stop workplace sexual harassment.”
“By prioritising accredited training, establishing clearer pathways for reporting, and putting power in the hands of those who are sexually harassed, we can begin to make meaningful progress towards reducing sexual harassment across all Australian workplaces.”
“We must also have clear consequences for perpetrators which are well publicised, and consider following our colleagues in the USA by stripping honours and awards from those who are found guilty of sexual harassment in the courts.”
The full submission to the Commission is available on the STA website, and the terms of the Inquiry can be found online.
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