Date: 
Tuesday 24 October 2017

The Male Champions of Change coalition has released a new report called "We Set The Tone: Eliminating Everyday Sexism". The report aims to identify what everyday sexism looks like and what impact it has on employees, on career advancement and productivty. 

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins says while we have seen sectors respond decisively to more explicit forms of sexual harassment, everyday sexism is still evident in workplace interactions, systems, policies and decisions that affect both individual careers and organisational cultures.

Here is her opinion piece published in the Herald Sun:

LIFE teaches us to disregard the "little things" that can upset us day-to-day like cruel banter, innuendo and jokes.

We're told it's the big things that matter. Pick your battles and don't sweat the small stuff.

These lessons learned first in the playground are later translated to the workplace. Resilience is a virtue. Fitting in is critical.

When it comes to the topic of everyday sexism, we know now that the little things do matter.

Are offensive jokes told in your workplace? Is poor behaviour excused because someone is a "good bloke"? Is it inferred you are a bad parent if you prioritise work equally with family? Do men pick up their phones or start side conversations when a woman addresses a meeting?

Often, the answer is yes.

Stories about everyday sexism make the media weekly.

Commentators have a field day and talkback lights up with people arguing "we've all become soft" or "it's political correctness gone mad". It creates headlines for a few days, then we move on.

Yet the behaviours are now so common that words like "Mansplaining"and "Man-terrupting" have become a part of everyday language.

Tolerance of everyday sexism is treated like a core capability in navigating some workplace dynamics. We share an open secret about what it takes to be "one of the boys". If you raise an issue, you might be told you are overly sensitive or that you simply aren't a good fit.

Work completed by the Male Champions of Change over the past year shows how these seemingly isolated incidents are far more pervasive and insidious than you might think. In their latest report, they describe how the cumulative impact is harming women and men, their careers and organisational performance.

More than 100 Australian leaders - mostly male CEOsare now stepping up their collective efforts to build modern, respectful and inclusive workplaces for all.

In We Set The Tone: Eliminating Everyday Sexism, the MCCs identify some of the most common types of everyday sexism - like insults masquerading as jokes; when women's voices or views are devalued; role-stereotyping for women and men; and preoccupations with women's physical appearance.

It offers simple and practical actions that all leaders can take to make a difference.

Among the many stories of sexism and worse coming out of Hollywood in the past few weeks, what struck me most is how powerful leaders, and especially men, set the tone for what behaviour is acceptable and what is condoned.

It also reinforces for me that an environment that permits sexist behaviour, by tacitly approving or turning a blind eye, is highly likely to find itself with much more serious issues to manage down the track.

KATE JENKINS IS AUSTRALIA'S SEX DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER