Sexual harassment is harmful and unlawful. Research shows that sexual harassment in workplaces is driven by gender inequality.
Sexual harassment is prevalent but preventable. Its impact on individuals and organisations can be significant. By understanding and addressing the drivers of sexual harassment, workplaces can help prevent it.
Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated.
Sexual harassment in Australia is highly gendered. Women are much more likely than men to have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime (85% compared to 56%).1 Almost 4 out of 5 cases of workplace sexual harassment are perpetrated by men.2
Women who experience other forms of discrimination are more likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are substantially more likely to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (55% compared with 39% of all women).3
- Women living with a disability are more likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace (52% compared with 39% of all women).4
- Young women (aged 18-24) are more than twice as likely than the general population to experience sexual harassment.5
- People of diverse sexual orientation are more likely to have experienced workplace sexual harassment compared to heterosexual people (52% compared with 31%).6
What drives sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a social problem. Stopping it is not just about the behaviour of individuals, but about changing the culture and environment of workplaces in which it occurs.
Evidence shows that violence against women is much more likely to occur when power, opportunities and resources are not shared equally between men and women in society, and when women are not valued and respected as much as men.
The gendered drivers of violence
Violence against women has distinct gendered drivers. Evidence points to four factors that most consistently predict or ‘drive’ violence against women and explain its gendered patterns.