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Sexual harassment: are you ready to act?

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Three expert women. Three informed views. One hot topic.

A stimulating panel discussion on sexual harassment – featuring a lawyer, leader and executive career coach – promises to dig deep on this ugly issue that has touched all of us in some way. We’ve either been harassed or know someone who has or worked somewhere that has experienced the problem.

‘Sexual harassment—are you ready to act?’ is the brainchild of Dr Kim Vella, an accredited executive career coach here in Canberra. Through her coaching business, Kim continually comes across professionals who aren’t always ready to expertly handle cases of sexual harassment.

“Say one day a staff member walks into a leader’s office and states they’ve been sexually harassed,” says Kim, who also has a PhD in Sociology from ANU. “Sure the organisation likely has a policy in place, but that’s not enough. If a leader hasn’t gone through how to respond in their head, they won’t necessarily be prepared yet what they do at that precise moment is critical. If they stumble or bumble they can make matters worse. We want conversation around what really has to happen, including with culture—the values and behaviours leaders must display around the issue to shift matters for the better.”

Dr Kim Vella

Joining Kim for ‘Sexual harassment—are you ready to act?’ is Sarah Avery, Head of the ACT Law Society, and Belinda Greenwood, a Former Commanding Officer of the Royal Australian Navy.

These three experts won’t just focus on how to handle reported cases, they’ll focus on what to do to prevent sexual harassment from erupting in the first place.

Sarah Avery

Sarah says that although there’s more to do, this is the most positive time she’s seen for change because society is hearing more and more about the problem, partly because more and more people are feeling confident in talking about it.

“What we need is supportive leaders with integrity of their own, not just policies,” says Sarah.

Having open conversations and being proactive is important for raising awareness and Belinda says that’s what she and her team aim for in their workplace. This approach also motivated her to join the panel discussion.

“By the time a sexual harassment complaint is made it’s too late in some ways because someone is already ruined,” says Belinda. “That’s why preventative work is so important.”

Belinda Greenwood

During ‘Sexual harassment—are you ready?’, Kim, Sarah and Belinda will spend an hour exploring the topic and then open the floor to questions.

“We need to keep talking and talking,” says Kim. “It’s hard to imagine that we still need to because sexual harassment has been illegal in Australia for more than three decades. But we need to, so people feel empowered to act and so we reach the ultimate goal, which is harassment-free workplaces.”

the essentials 

What: Sexual harassment—are you ready to act?
When: Monday 12 February from 6 to 7.30 pm
Where: East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
Tickets: $45.00 (plus booking fee and GST) with net proceeds going to Karinya House. Ticket sales end Friday 9 February
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