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MFA boss Sophie Madden responds to report on sexual harassment

Following the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect At Work Report last week, CEO of the Media Federation of Australia, Sophie Madden has sought to correct the industry’s record on sexual harassment.

In a statement to Mumbrella -, in conjunction with a post on LinkedIn – Madden called the report a “confronting read”, while she also sought to clarify that agencies do not fall under the top-ranking sector.

Madden called the report a ‘confronting read’

“Given the recent news coverage on this topic, maybe I shouldn’t have been so shocked and disheartened by the data. It is appalling that sexual harassment in the workplace is still such a significant issue and that in five years we’ve seen little progress across any industry. We must do better.”

After a report in trade media last week stated the Australian media industry again topped the list for sexual harassment, Madden said “it is important to note that, according to the report, incidences of sexual harassment in Australian agencies are significantly lower than the national average (15% versus 33%)”, clarifying that agencies are categorised in the ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical Services’ sector, rather than the ‘Media, Information & Telecommunications Sector’.

As per the report, Advertising Services falls under the ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical Services’ sector, alongside the following occupations.

While the ‘Media, Information & Telecommunications Sector’ includes occupations such as newspapers, radio and television broadcasting, and internet publishing.

The ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical Services’ sector saw one of the lowest instances of sexual harassment split by 12% of men stating they had been sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years, while 18% of women stated they had also.

The ‘Information, Media and Telecommunications’ sector topped the list, with 75% of women and 55% of men stating in the last five years they have experienced an incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace. The national average was 33%, while the report also states that overwhelmingly cases of sexual harassment at work were committed by men, at 77%.

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The entire study involved interviewing around 10,000 Australians, however, those respondents listed in the two listed categories amount to 66 men and 68 women for the ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical Services’ sector, and 44 men and 41 women for the ‘Information, Media and Telecommunications’ sector.

The latter accounts for 1% of the Australian workforce as a whole, but 3% of incidents of sexual harassment cases were in this industry, while the former accounts for 10% of the workforce, yet 5% of cases – an underrepresentation.

“Nevertheless, the only acceptable incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace is 0% – this is what we strive for and we need to do more to get there,’ Madden continued.

“In February next year, we will be commencing stage two of our industry action plan on workplace safety; developing a robust industry framework for the prevention and reporting of workplace safety. An important next step in ensuring workplaces are safe and respectful for all employees.”

The ACA has also been contacted for comment.

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