By Robyn Molloy

The #MeToo campaign has normalised conversations about sexual harassment, but it’s up to men, women and employers to roll up their sleeves and work through the issue together, according to a sexual harassment expert.

Sex discrimination law expert Dr Skye Saunders, who has written Whispers from the Bush - the Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women and is researching her next book Defying Gravity - Rising Above Sex Discrimination in the Workplace has developed the Strike a Chord framework to transform sexual harassment culture.  

Saunders will share the research behind her Strike a Chord call to action at the CCI-Ending harassment and violence in the workplace HR and IR workshop on November 7.

She says while the #MeToo has helped women articulate their hurt and humiliation and flip the coin on sexual harassment being the norm – it should not all be about exposing men.

“It’s quite the contrary,” she says. “And the Strike a Chord framework that I am speaking to is about empowering men, playing to the part of all of us that does want to do the right thing ethically, and looking into the future and revaluating what our independent roles as men, women and employers really looks like,” she told BP Digital.

“I think #MeToo has had an important place to bring these issue to the forefront so that we can have normal conversations about these issues, but now it’s not just about one part of the chord, it has to be about all of the notes together.”

Saunders says men, women and employers are the “notes” in the Strike A Chord framework, which is a solution to the cultural problem of sexual harassment.

“So what I will be saying is we have this cultural problem, it is entrenched, and these are the reasons why I have discovered it is entrenched,” she says.

“In terms of solutions we need to take a wholistic approach. We have good law contained in the Sex Discrimination Act and other pieces of legislation but the translation of that good law into everyday workplaces on the ground is lost. 

“Men, women and employers can each be empowered to play a unique and special role in the context of all rolling up our sleeves and affecting cultural change together.”

Saunders says employers must address sexual harassment or risk being held vicariously liable for their employee’s behaviour, something she says is not well understood in Australian workplaces.

“For the employer, the law makes it very clear that it is the mere possibility that someone is offended, humiliated or insulted by unwanted sexual behaviour that poses a risk to the employer of them being vicariously liable,” she says.

“You might have three women in the workplace that two think a joke with the “c” word in the punchline is funny, but one of the women who is working in a different part of the sheds might be deeply insulted.

“It’s the mere possibility that a person might feel insulted that poses the risk of vicarious liability to the employer and we don’t understand that as a country. That is something we have a lot of work to do on.”

Saunders will be joined by CCI’s Principal Consultant Erin Bethel, who will talk about management of sexual harassment claims, while CCI’s Senior Employee Relations Consultant Stephen Farrell will address the new Domestic Violence Leave provisions.

► Learn how to find harmony between men, women and employers on sexual harassment in the workplace from the experts. Book your tickets now.