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Media industry has highest prevalence of sexual harassment, finds Australian Human Rights Commission

A new report from The Australian Human Rights Commission has found 81% of workers in the media, information and telecommunications industries have been sexually harassed in the last five years.

It found that of these cases of sexual harassment, almost one third (28%) took place at a work social event, such as after-work drinks or a function.

The findings come from AHRC’s national survey of 10,000 workers, titled ‘Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces’.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in the media, information and telecommunications industries is significantly higher than the next-most prevalent industry, arts and recreation services, in which 49% of workers have been harassed over the same time period.

It was also significantly higher than the national average prevalence rate, which stands at 33%.

Source: The Australian Human Rights Commission (click to enlarge)

The information, media and telecommunications category was one of the few in which more men reported sexual harassment than women, with 83% of men compared to 80% of women stating they had been sexually harassed in the last five years.

Source: The Australian Human Rights Commission (click to enlarge)

Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins noted how formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment remains low, with fewer than one in five people (17%) making a report or complaint.

“We know from our research that many people are afraid to report their experiences of unwelcome sexual conduct out of fear that they won’t be believed, that it’s not worth it, that they’ll be ostracised and that it could damage their career.

“It’s also worrying that almost half of those who did make a formal report said that nothing changed at their organisation, as a result of the complaint.

“Unwelcome sexual conduct on this scale in the workplace not only causes distress to workers and colleagues, it impacts workplace productivity and impedes career progression, which has an economic impact on businesses and families,” commissioner Jenkins said.

The survey results will inform the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which will begin public consultations later this month.

NOW, Australia’s answer to the #MeToo movement led by veteran journalist Tracey Spicer, has responded to the report, calling the findings “worrying, but not entirely surprising”.

NOW’s chair, consultant LJ Loch, said: “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”, added Loch, “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,” she said. “This is a clear call to action for employers to actively tackle the culture within their workplaces.”

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