ANZ Bank has fired a banker for making sexual comments to a female employee. Although the alleged behaviour took place at an industry event outside of work hours, it was nevertheless held to be work-related and the employee was dismissed. According to Kathryn van der Merwe, the group executive for talent and culture at ANZ, the company has a zero tolerance policy for bullying and sexual harassment, and more concerted efforts to remove such behaviour has seen an 80% increase in reports by whistle-blowers in the past year. The banking sector has been especially sensitive to such allegations following a number of scandals that have triggered calls for an investigative commission into the industry.
An investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC alleges that TV personality, Don Burke, sexually harassed and bullied employees on Burke’s Backyard in the 1980s and 1990s. All of the more than 50 interviewees made allegations against Mr Burke. One of the show’s researchers, Louise Langdon, claims that he tried to remove her top and flick her bra straps on a work trip to the Northern Territory. She also claims that on a separate occasion, he “put his foot into [her] rear end”. A second researcher alleged that he grabbed her breasts at work. A former male crew member has supported these claims, describing Mr Burke as an “absolute sexual predator” and “bully”. He went on to say that he “would often have women in tears. He used to take great delight in it”. Mr Burke has denied these allegations and labelled the report “opportunist”. He said that it was “intended to severely damage [his] reputation, by trying to link [his] alleged behaviour with the appalling behaviours of Harvey Weinstein”. Channel 9, which broadcast the popular show, has said that it is “not in a position to comment on these specific allegations”.
Sharon Warburton, a prominent West Australian senior businesswoman, has warned of the potential risk of mandatory quotas in the workplace. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency recently called for quotas to boost the number of women in executive roles in Western Australia, in light of the state’s lagging figures nationally. Ms Warburton, chairwoman of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, advised that this could create an environment where women worked with people who did not respect them. Ms Warburton described working for two years as the token woman on an executive team as “very tough”, given that the role arose partly from a desire for greater gender diversity. She voiced concern over the mandatory quotas replicating her experience of “waking up every day and going into an environment where not all of your peers respected you, nor saw value in what you could bring”. Despite her reticence, she emphasised that for such a system to work, it would need a degree of formal mentoring, and “massively more support networks for people who could go into that system”.