Once again the Australian community is talking about how to reduce incidences of sexual harassment and assault in Parliament House.
Attention has focused on requiring politicians and their staffers to undertake training - but will this make a difference?
The Australian government has accepted all of the recommendations in the Foster report. The report was the end product of a review into how "serious incidents" in Parliament House are handled.
The review was instigated by the Prime Minister following Brittany Higgins' allegation that she had been sexually assaulted in a ministerial office.
The report contains some good recommendations, including the establishment of an independent complaints mechanism, a new framework for responding to complaints, and increased support services for victims.
One of the key recommendations is that politicians and their staff attend training on how to ensure workplaces are safe and respectful and how to respond appropriately to "unacceptable behaviour".
Reportedly, the training will be mandatory for government politicians and staffers, but not politicians from other parties.
So, will it work?
The short answer is no.
One-off, mandatory training to effect behaviour change to prevent sexual harassment does not work.
Requiring employees to undertake mandatory sexual harassment training, empathy training or other types of diversity and equality training can backfire, as people rebel, and pre-existing beliefs are reinforced.
Training needs to be ongoing, long-term, and part of a behavioural change program.
We see this with Andrew Laming, who underwent mandatory empathy training after he allegedly bullied women online.
After a one-hour virtual empathy training session, Mr Laming stated that he was "overly empathetic" and cared for others too much.
Stand-alone sexual harassment training has been found to be not only ineffective, but can reinforce bad behaviours.
American researchers have found that men forced to undertake sexual harassment training become defensive, and resistant to learning.
But worse than this, male resistance can result in men blaming the victim, and thinking that women are making false claims of sexual harassment.
Requiring employees, politicians, and staffers to undertake any form of equality training is an intrinsically attractive proposition. People behave badly - send them to training!
Sending employees to training also signals to the community that the organisation is taking the issue seriously.
As researchers have noted, however, it can also signal to employees that the concerns of the minority group are more important than the dominant group's concerns.
This then leads to backlash and a feeling amongst the dominant group that they have been treated unfairly.
In other words - the politicians who are required to attend sexual harassment training, or who attend reluctantly, may well emerge from the training session feeling like they've been hard done by.
Education and training programs can result in behavioural change, but the impacts are likely to be short-lived.
People tend to revert back to learned behaviours, and researchers have found that the positive effects decline over time.
The training needs to be ongoing and long-term. It needs to be part of a behavioural change program where participants reflect, continually learn and practice new behaviours in the workplace.
Enabling men to become active bystanders and call out bad behaviour works; as does peer-based training, where men educate each other.
The current attention on how to prevent sexual harassment and assault is to be welcomed.
The Foster report contains initiatives to change the culture of Parliament House.
Let's hope these overcome the inadequacies of limited sexual harassment training.
- Dr Sue Williamson is a senior lecturer in human resource management in the School of Business at UNSW Canberra.
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