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Stamp Out Sexism

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10 November 2017

NUJ statement on sexual harassment at Westminster and the wider media industry.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"It’s time to dismantle workplace cultures that allow predatory behaviour and sexual harassment to flourish. Journalists should be able to do their jobs without being sexually harassed by their work superiors or contacts they are expected to interact with. Such abuse of power needs to be stamped out.
“Newspaper and broadcasting organisations have a duty of care for their employees and people who work for them and it’s time they took that seriously. The latest revelations in Westminster of MPs and ministers sexually harassing journalists are not new. Many journalists have felt they’ve had no option but to put up with it for fear their experiences would not be believed, that it somehow reflects upon them, or that their employers would belittle what had happened. Women in the male-dominated lobby have been reluctant to speak out because "it all comes with the territory", they are told.
"The dynamic during so-called Pestminster, itself a trivialisation of what is going on, has been illuminating. It highlights the outrageous lack of employment policies and safeguards at Westminster that expose the dodgy employment practices of MPs who routinely espouse beliefs in public about ethical behaviour, yet fall far short of this in treatment of their own staff and colleagues. It’s about time all parliamentarians put their publicly expressed beliefs into practice.
“We also need to examine our own behaviour as journalists when it comes to the representation of sexual harassment in the media. It’s depressing to see the predictable proliferation of women columnists commissioned to denigrate colleagues speaking out, peddling the myth that these are minor issues that have been overblown, or that they emanate from women who simply can’t cut it. 
“Instances have come to light that reveal criminal incidents and patterns of behaviour that are systemic. The NUJ has long supported women – and men – who have faced such unacceptable behaviour in the course of their work and we’ll continue to do that.  Our campaigning at the BBC, in the wake of the Rose Review, by Dinah Rose QC, revealed the real problem of bullying and sexual harassment at the BBC and we worked with the corporation to put policies in place to protect journalists – both staff and freelance - from abuse from colleagues. 
“There needs to be a radical change of culture in the media world. Men still dominate the positions of power in management and on the boards. Journalists – men and women – must act collectively with their union to make it clear that this behaviour must stop."
 “Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment and wants the NUJ to assist them should contact us on sos@nuj.org.uk

The NUJ, together with the Federation of Entertainment Unions, is running a campaign Creating without Conflict, to combat bullying and harassment in the creative industries. A survey of the Fedreation’s members found that eight out of 10 women (81%) who reported bullying, harassment and discrimination said their gender was a factor. The respondents reported incidents from lewd comments to sexual assault and commented on pressure from superiors to enter sexual relationships and unnecessary scripted nudity.

Women said they had to develop strategies to avoid sexual harassment as their career progressed, but then found they were discriminated against because of age and were viewed as beyond their shelf-life. One in ten respondents in theatre, television and film witnessed sexually-related harassment.

Just over half of the 388 respondents to The Bookseller’s survey on sexual harassment within the book industry said they have experienced harassment, with 54 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men stating that they had suffered abuse. Harassment was reported throughout the industry: booksellers, large and small publishers, agents, scouts, authors, events organisers and freelances. The experiences ranged from crude or demeaning language used about women in the workplace, or at work-related social events, to suggestive comments and unwanted touching and groping, inappropriate sexual advances, predatory approaches made under cover of professional contact and assault. Two respondents to the survey said that they had been raped

The NUJ website has a range of resources for reps and journalists dealing with bullying and harassment including the TUC’s guide Tackling sexual harassment in the workplace.

Tags: , equality, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, westminster, sexism, rose review