A Conversation with Kate Jenkins

(Past Event- August 2018)

Updated 6 September


We invited Kate Jenkins, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to speak to those who work and study in Parkville Precinct. More than a public lecture, this was a dedicated time and place for essential conversations that will ensure a safe workplace culture for all.

Kate Jenkins spoke candidly about the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, providing an example for how, as a community, we should talk about it. This type of frank discussion is important for individual awareness about the issue and an understanding on how to confront the issue when it occurs.


Session Insights:

The prevalence of sexual harassment

The 2016 Australia Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey revealed that two in five people, aged 18 and over, have experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime. Understanding the depth of the problem will allow us to have practical conversations in order to eradicate it.

Sexual harassment is bad for our health

Sexual harassment has damaging consequences on a person’s health such as depression and PTSD (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017). Kate Jenkins’s comparison of sexual harassment to other health issues like smoking gives a more coherent vision on how we can eliminate the problem. Since society already strives to rectify other health issues, we can work to change behaviours and attitudes that lead to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is bad for business

The cascading effect of sexual harassment adversely impacts productivity and leads to unforeseeable costs. Low attendance, high turnover, loss in quantity and quality of work, recruiting and training costs, and litigation fees negatively impact productivity (Newman, 1995). Time and money is taken away from work when sexual harassment occurs. 

Progress needed

Sexual harassment is an issue that effects men and women and we have to solve it together. This can be done by addressing the underlying drivers, as well as challenging stereotypes around the roles of men and women in the workplace and home. Behaviours that were once acceptable in the past should be reevaluated to see how they fit in our present culture. Rapid cultural change is key to eliminate incidences of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is implementing a National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and are calling for submissions. Learn more 



Australian Human Rights Commission (2017). Change the course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Retrieved: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_2017_ChangeTheCourse_UniversityReport.pdf

Newman, M. (1995). Sexual Harassment and Productivity: It's Not Just a U.S. Problem. Public Productivity & Management Review,19(2), 172-186. doi:10.2307/3380496


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