Almost half of young women in Canberra reported experiencing sexual harassment in the last 12 months, a recent survey conducted by the YWCA found.
For respondents aged 16 to 19, the proportion who had experienced some form of sexual harassment was 42 per cent, for those aged 20 to 24 the rate rose to 48 per cent.
More than 1200 women were asked to share their experience of life in Canberra as part of the survey.
The report found gender inequality was still a major issue in the ACT, and the lives of many women living in Canberra were defined by economic insecurity exacerbated by COVID-19.
YWCA chief executive officer Frances Crimmins said while Canberra was often referred to as the capital of equality, the data showed it wasn't.
"For young women, we saw alarming rates of sexual harassment," Ms Crimmins said. "With the national spotlight on sexual harassment in workplaces, our findings just further reinforce the need for urgent action to address this form of gender-based violence."
Canberra women were asked about their experience of housing, financial security, employment, safety and mental health.
Ms Crimmins said the data showed women were already struggling to manage living costs and unpaid labour as carers and parents in 2019.
"Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation for many is now dire," she said. "Many report being on the brink of housing stress with 26 per cent of renters saying they don't have sufficient personal savings to manage one payment cycle if they should suddenly lose their income."
Ms Crimmins said given the YWCA began collecting responses before the August lockdown, the expectation was many faced added stress from the uncertainty and employment losses during that time.
"As soon as an additional impacting factor is applied, it becomes even harder for women and non-binary people to combat inequality," she said. "For example, 61 per cent of women who are single parents and who are renting don't have enough personal savings to manage a single payment cycle with a loss of income.
"Similarly, women who are over the age of 45, who have a disability, First Nations women and sexually or gender diverse respondents showed further intersections of inequality."
Ms Cummins told ABC radio she hoped data demonstrating the breadth of the impact COVID had on women would be used by decision makers to better inform policy.
"When you see all of the recovery packages are still targeting construction and building - and while I acknowledge there is pathways to get young women and women into those sectors - the stimulus package for employment is still primarily targeting industries that men traditionally work in," she said.
The YWCA report came out the same week an independent inquiry into workplace culture at Parliament House found one in three women working there had experienced sexual harassment.
Ms Crimmins said for men who witnessed this behaviour it was their job to speak up.
"Believe women, believe them first because it actually takes a lot of courage to say something," she said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: