More than 100 CEOs sign #IStandForRespect pledge to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran at March 4 Justice in Canberra, with journalist and presenter Jessica Rowe. Source: Sarah Moran.

Many of Australia’s leading businesses have publicly signed the #IStandForRespect pledge to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.

Coordinated by the Diversity Council of Australia, the zero-tolerance for sexual harassment pledge has been signed by more than 100 chief executives of major companies and organisations, including leading banks, professional and services firms, resource companies, multinational organisations, not for profits and universities.

The #IStandForRespect pledge asks the businesses who sign on to do two things:

  1. Stand against gendered harassment and violence in all its forms; and
  2. Commit to taking steps in their organisation to address sexual and sex-based harassment, to make the workplace safer for everyone.

Executives from more than 100 organisations including Salesforce, Crown Resorts, Hall & Wilcox, IKEA, Origin Energy, Network 10, Westpac, PepsiCo, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and the University of New South Wales have signed on to the pledge.

The movement from the private sector comes after the federal government finally accepted either “in full, in part or in principle” the recommendations made in Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ landmark [email protected] report.

The report, which was the result of a world-first national inquiry into the nature and prevalence of harassment in Australian workplaces, previously sat ignored by the government for well over a year.

Diversity Council of Australia chief executive Lisa Annese, who founded the pledge initiative, said it was an opportunity for businesses to show collective action on the issue of sexual harassment.

“Sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces since 1984, yet it’s still a problem. Now is the time to move from words to committed, collective action,” she said.

“I believe addressing sexual harassment and gendered violence is the business of every business. Twenty-three per cent of women and sixteen per cent of men experience sexual harassment, so it’s not just a ‘woman problem’.”

Annese said sexual harassment has the potential to cause serious damage to a business, and that perpetrators need to be held to account.

“Sometimes, the personality that will predate and sexually harass will likely bully and intimidate and cause serious cultural damage to a business. Ironically, they are often allowed to do so because they are seen as ‘untouchable’ or ‘rain-makers’ in an organisation,” she said.

“No one makes it rain worth almost four billion dollars — which is what sexual harassment costs in terms of productivity loss and having to replace and rehire the people who are on the wrong side of a harasser.

“The bottom line is this: businesses can’t afford not to tackle sexual harassment. The #IStandForRespect pledge is a starting point, a way for them to be part of the change that will come.”

You can see more on the pledge here, along with the full list of signatories.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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