Annual anti-harassment training is about to become mandatory for all members of the United States congress and their staff.
The bipartisan measure, which passed through the House of Representatives yesterday, follows allegations of sexual assault against Democratic representative John Conyers, senator Al Franken, as well as republican candidate Roy Moore who’s running for a seat in the senate.
“We cannot and we will not tolerate that kind of behavior,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told journalists, The Los Angeles Times reports. “We need to have a comprehensive review of all of these things so that we can have a comprehensive response.”
The fact some of the most powerful men in the US require training (and an annual check-up) to understand what constitutes sexual harassment is remarkable in itself.
But what the men making the decisions are missing is one simple solution.
There is a way to sustainably change a culture of sexual harassment that doesn’t involve half-hearted seminars in air-conditioned rooms with tables of empty notebooks.
Elect more women.
This is the message of Michigan Democratic candidate Dana Nessel, who is running to be the state’s attorney general.
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“If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that we need more women in positions of power, not less,” Nessel says in a new online campaign.
“I will not sexually harass my staff, and I won’t tolerate it in your workplace either. I won’t walk around in a half-open bathrobe, and I’ll continue to take all sex crimes seriously just like I did as a prosecutor.”
At the moment, women make up 19.6 per cent of the United States Congress: 21 women serve in the Senate (21 per cent) and 84 women serve (19.3 per cent) serve in the House of Representatives.
In Australia, the percentage of women in federal parliament is slightly better, but certainly nothing to gush about: 32 per cent.
Another industry ravaged by sexual harassment claims is the entertainment industry in Hollywood – indeed the story that triggered this waterfall of exposés was uncovering the alleged predatory behaviour of film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Here, too, women are vastly under-represented. In 2016, according to a study at San Diego State University, women comprised just seven per cent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing films, Variety reports.
If women were elected, or employed, or given opportunities historically given to only men, this pattern of young women being preyed upon and assaulted might end.
Not only can women refrain from showing younger, less powerful workers their crotch, but the presence of more females in boardrooms and in parliament might lead to men taking us seriously. And not just for granted.