What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 4 – 10 September 2017

Diversity Council Australia Report Reveals the Extent of Discrimination Women in Business Face
A report by the Diversity Council Australia and University of Sydney Business School has revealed the workplace discrimination faced by women of diverse backgrounds. Cracking the Glass-Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the 21st Century interviewed 230 culturally diverse women in business, revealing the extent of bias, racism and sexism in their everyday lives. Only 12% of respondents strongly agreed their opportunities would be the same as another employee with equivalent ability. Furthermore, a mere 10% strongly agreed that either their opinions were respected or leadership qualities recognised. One interviewee explained, “They see you as three strikes and you’re out – a woman, a woman with children, and a woman with an accent”. Company director, Ming Long, advised businesses to “look beyond gender and ethnicity. You might actually find there’s a gem in your midst”. Culturally diverse women currently comprise 2% of ASX directors.

Director of Nursing Awarded Damages for Severe Workplace Bullying and Harassment
An employee has been awarded $1703530 in damages against their employer for severe workplace bullying (in the case of Robinson v State of Queensland [2017] QSC 165). Ms Robinson, the District Director of Nursing at the Cape York Health Service, alleged that from March 2010 to Jan 2011, her CEO continuously harassed her. She claimed he had humiliated her by making decisions about her employment and telling staff before her, as well as by blaming, belittling, isolating, undermining and having a “contemptuous disregard” for her. As a result of her long-term mistreatment, Ms Robinson developed an adjustment disorder, which forced her into compulsory retirement. Justice Henry held that this was a case of unlawful workplace bullying and harassment as well as a breach of the CEO’s own Workplace Harassment Human Resources Policy. Additionally, Ms Robinson’s employer was found vicariously liable for failing to take timely action to prevent the abuse and to have breached its duty in negligence. The damages were awarded for economic loss, medical expenses and general pain and suffering.

Female Lawyers Facing Burn-Out in Pervasive ‘Boys’ Club’ Culture
A competitive “boys’ club” environment is putting strain on female lawyers, causing some to ‘burn out’ and others feelings of disillusionment. Courtney Bowie, a recent law graduate, said, “Young women know… they have to work harder than men to get ahead” but described it as nonetheless “exhaustingly competitive”. In the NSW Law Society’s annual National Solicitors’ Report, it is apparent that the number of women in leadership positions is not proportionate to the 60% of women solicitors. Furthermore, of the mere 30% of women barristers, the majority have fewer than 10 years’ worth of experience. While Melbourne lawyer, Bridie Boyle, notes that the “culture will take a long time to really change”, signs of progression are already being seen. For example, from 2006 to 2016, representation of female judges rose to 36% from 24%, and there have been a move to create more flexible hours and better leadership pathways.

Female Engineers Face Barriers to Enter the Industry and Discrimination Once There
A report by the Association of Professional Engineers has revealed the gender discrimination inherent in the workforce. From a pool of 1742 engineers surveyed, 47.1% of females said they had experienced such discrimination, compared with 3.4% of men. Furthermore, 13.1% of women aged 20 – 39 years old had dropped out of the workforce altogether. Chris Walton, the Chief Executive of the organisation, said that “Removing the obstacles, barriers and biases… is just as fundamental as increasing the participation of women and girls in engineering education”. This was supported by the view of an anonymous female engineer, who said that “There need to be more programs to support females to make sure they actively get opportunities rather than left to chance [sic]”.