Stopping sexual harassment means changing the culture of organisations

Stopping sexual harassment means changing the culture of organisations Photo: Belinda Pratten

Female journalists are more than twice as likely to be sexually harassed in the workforce than women in other professions, a Monash University study has found.

This is almost six per cent more than experienced sexual harassment in 1996.

Media and gender studies senior lecturer Louise North interviewed 577 female journalists, the largest survey of its kind in Australia.

She found 57.3 per cent had been sexually harassed in the workforce, with most reporting the experience had occurred within the past five years.

‘‘This overwhelmingly indicates that sexual harassment is an ongoing, systemic problem that remains part of the work culture in media organisation in Australia today,’’ Dr North wrote.

‘‘All major media organisations have similar high levels of women who experience harassment, although the commercial television sector seems to rate higher than newspaper-based companies like News Ltd and Fairfax, or the public broadcaster.’’

A staggering 87.2 per cent of female journalists responding to the survey who had experienced sexual harassment did not report it, either seeing no benefit in making a formal complaint, thinking they could handle the problem themselves, or fearing repercussions from making a report.

Dr North said the ‘‘blokey’’ culture of newsrooms was chiefly to blame for the disproportionately high rate of sexual harassment in media organisations, as was the concentration of women in junior or reporting roles, and their absence from senior positions.

She pointed out that among 21 metropolitan newspapers, there was not one woman editing a daily newspaper since former Sydney Morning Herald editor Amanda Wilson left the paper earlier this year. Three women edit Saturday or Sunday editions.

‘‘I think that speaks volumes.’’

The last comprehensive survey of female media professionals was conducted by the journalists’ union, the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance and the International Federation of Journalists in 1996.

It showed the most significant issues facing female workers were childcare, equal opportunities in promotion and sexual harassment.

Dr North’s research showed little had changed since 1996. In some ways, like the experience of sexual harassment, women fared worse.

‘‘Sexual harassment is not about sex, it’s about power,’’ Dr North said. ‘‘And when you see women making inroads into a profession you see sexual harassment.’’

She will officially release the findings in December.