Gender equality watchdog warns of ‘mob mentality’ against men in war against workplace sexual harassment
Gender equality watchdog warns of ‘mob mentality’ against men in war against workplace sexual harassment

Women can be ‘worst bullies’ at work, warns watchdog

Exclusive: A work watchdog has warned against a "mob mentality'' against men, declaring that some women can be terrible workplace bullies.

The federal government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) director Libby Lyons called for more respect for women at work, but warned against demonising all men after an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations aired this month.

"Some of the worst bullying I've seen in workplaces has come from women,'' she told News Corp Australia.

"We have to be very, very careful that we don't fall into a mob mentality and mass hysteria.

"I believe there are many more good men out there than men who treat people poorly.''

Ms Lyons said she was "outraged'' by workplace harassment, and called for more women in top management roles to ensure diversity and prevent "groupthink'' by men in power.

"I am not here bashing men around the head,'' she said.

"This is about respect for everyone.

"There are many good men who try incredibly hard and are probably worried about standing up and calling things out - they probably feel they are in the minority.''

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons. Picture: John Feder/The Australian
Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

Ms Lyons said some men feared "that if they speak up they'll be shouted down''.

"We must ensure we are not lumping all men into the same basket,'' she said.

"This is not about pitting men against women, this is about ensuring we point out we all need to be treated respectfully.

"We must ensure we have workplaces that mirror the communities in which we live - this means we embrace young and old people, people of different cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities, and women.''

Ms Lyons said women's revelations of workplace harassment were "outrageous''.

"Goodness me, what happened to basic kindness?'' she said.

"It's outrageous. People get into positions of power and they take the privilege for granted.

"There's a lot of pent-up frustration and discontent, in some cases leading to anger in women, because they feel they're unable to speak up and have been unfairly and unjustly treated, and in fact mistreated, in many cases.

"Women have been fearful to speak up because for decades we've had law enforcement, a legal system and a justice system dominated by men and women have not had a fair go when they've been brave enough to step up to make reports.''

Lyons wants to see respect for everyone in the workplace, irrespective of their gender. Picture: Thinkstock
Lyons wants to see respect for everyone in the workplace, irrespective of their gender. Picture: Thinkstock

Ms Lyons said harassment and discrimination against women at work was "a symptom of an embedded culture we have lived in for generations''.

"That is a culture where the man is the breadwinner and responsible for bringing home the bacon and the woman has been the happy homemaker,'' she said.

"That all changed as more and more women wanted to have a career.

"That meant we had to address the whole issue of bias and discrimination.''

Ms Lyons was speaking before today's launch of new research by the WGEA and Bankwest Curtin Economics centre, predicting that Australian women will take a quarter of a century to earn as much as men.

Men still earn, on average, 20 per cent more than women working full-time.

Ms Lyons said more women need to "sit at the decision-making table''.

"If we have more workplaces that have more women - not just white women either but more from all sorts of backgrounds and experience and ages - sitting around the decision-making table, they'll be able to feed in their ideas and we'll get better decision-making and more respectful workplaces,'' she said.

"We need to challenge groupthink.''

Originally published as Women can be 'worst bullies' at work, warns watchdog



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