The times, they need a-changing.
03 November 2017
We are currently experiencing an absolute torrent of sexual harassment allegations that are saturating the news media. It’s a dismal and depressing state of affairs. Such actions are a direct attack on the wellbeing of the victims. I’ve heard some commentators suggest that some of these allegations are more trivial than others or cannot be judged to be serious because they occurred several decades ago. This is blatantly wrong, as none of us can truly know the emotional impact that harassment has on an individual. We can only know, or in most cases guess, how we would personally feel if the same happened to us.
One of our fundamental British Values steers us towards respecting each other. Any kind of harassment is a clear breach of this ethic. It’s highly unlikely anyone truly knows just how widespread the problem is. However, the TUC commissioned some research last year that concluded 52 per cent of women have experienced some kind of sexual harassment in the workplace. Alarmingly, this figure rises to 63 per cent for young women aged 16 to 24. The data doesn’t seem to cover men but I am sure this is not a single gender issue.
Of course, it tends to be just the high profile cases that hit the headlines. Those incidents involving celebrities and politicians gain the most attention and serve to highlight the problem. However, this is not an issue restricted to the rich and famous. It can affect anyone. As an apprentice, you can turn to your employer or training provider to share any concerns you have. You should be able to do this with the confidence that the matter will be addressed robustly, and that it will be investigated fully. You should not feel intimidated and you should not be swayed by arguments you could be making things worse for yourself.
Is this an overly simplistic view? Perhaps it is, but I believe it has to be this black or white if we are to make any progress in eradicating this type of unacceptable behaviour. If nothing else, spend a few moments now reflecting on your own attitudes, actions and experiences relating to harassment. How can you change yourself or others for the better? What can you do to promote mutual respect? We all have a role in stamping out sexual harassment and consigning it to the dustbin of history. Make sure you play yours well.
Finally, just as I was about to put this blog to bed, I’ve been given a glimmer of hope that things are changing. An 18-year old apprentice has this morning told me that he has no idea what a wolf whistle is. It’s not much to go on, but it is progress, I hope!