Dear bosses, don’t look away

Western Cape /  / 

Picture: Christina Morillo/Pexels

This year the focus of Independent Media’s annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to managers, executives, business owners and other bosses.

Dear Boss… 

  • Do you overlook inappropriate, sexual and lustful comments from males in management and the workplace towards female staff members? 
  • Are you perpetuating the stereotyping of women by being party to demeaning and derogatory jokes concerning female members of staff ? 
  • Do you fail to protect a female staff member when colleagues speak about her in a demeaning, unprofessional way in her absence, especially based on her gender, appearance or how she dresses? 
  • Are women under-represented in your management structure, and do you have less regard for their views and contributions than those of male colleagues? 
  • Have you disregarded or made false excuses not to participate in pay parity initiatives for female colleagues when such opportunities arose? 
  • Do you play down instances where a female staff member reports sexual harassment, or received reports of sexual harrassment from other managers because the female staff reporting to you are unwilling to discuss such complaints with you? 
  • Have you looked away when junior female staffers are coerced into running errands such as making tea and other non-professional chores by their seniors? 
  • Have you fallen short in making sure that all members of staff are in possession of the company’s sexual harassment policy and procedures? 
  • Have you ever turned your back on an opportunity to support female colleagues in their efforts to end sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, or failed to ensure that pregnant female colleagues get treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve? 
  • Do you still not have any defined resources or an environment in which women feel safe and secure to deal with sexual harassment cases in your workplace? 

Like restaurants, malls or the outdoors, there are many places where the choice to stay or go elsewhere is entirely ours. Not so with our jobs and the workplace. 

Jumping from one job to another is just not that easy – if at all possible in such a depressed economy. Still, if we are truly unhappy in our jobs or careers, we can go through the arduous process of finding something new. 

But it is simply untenable and a gross injustice if any woman is driven to this point because of sexual harassment in the workplace. And yet, it is a curse that a great many women have to endure to earn a living. 

Sexist behaviour and sexual harassment are rife in the South African workplace. 

Considering that, on average, a person will spend one third of their lifetime at work, toxic masculinity is making life in the office a living hell that women can’t escape. 

Some men in powerful positions who have abused their authority have been brought down by people who #dontlookaway. 

But it is not just up to women and organisations to come forward to unmask these predators. Everyone, including and especially business and company leaders, should ensure that it is the sex pest whose working life becomes a living hell – that there is no place in the workplace for gender-based toxicity. 

Every company, every business, every public institution should have a strict policy in place against sexual harassment. If this is not so, or if there is a policy that is not vigorously enforced, then managers from the boardrooms to the shop floor need to step up or step aside. 

#DontLookAway: Take the boss’s pledge

I know the team that I have been entrusted to lead cannot function at its best if any one of us is made to feel uncomfortable, under-valued or disrespected. 

This is true no matter the reason, but it is utterly unacceptable if toxic masculinity and sexual harassment are to blame. 

Ability, skill, motivation and results have nothing to do with gender or sexual orientation. 

I pledge that I will not tolerate any level of sexual harassment in my team, or any extent of toxic masculinity. 

I will act swiftly and decisively to have complaints of sexual harassment thoroughly and sensitively investigated. 

I promise that I will fully familiarise myself with all aspects of this undesirable behaviour, and that I will lead by example and instil a culture of mutual respect in our team. 

I promise that my door (real or figurative) will always be open and no one will be made to feel uncomfortable or awkward to report sexual harassment incidents and concerns to me. 

I pledge that complaints brought to me will not be allowed to lead to subsequent harassment. 

Furthermore, I pledge to push for a company sexual harassment policy, and if one is in place, I will provide it to our team members. 

Finally, I pledge that I will not allow comments made in my presence that are in poor taste, or continue to entrench toxic masculinity or the trivialisation of sexual harassment, to go unchallenged. 

I will make sure we #dontlookaway. 

* GET INVOLVED! Take one of our pledges and send your video via Whatsapp to 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.

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