Journalist and media advocate Karen Percy says when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, “it’s time for men to stand up”.
“If you see toxic behaviour…call it out. If somebody is making a rude joke or a jab at somebody, call it out,” she told On the Job with Francis Leach & Sally Rugg.
“There’s a lot of wilful blindness, a lot of closed minds going… it’s not me, I’m not doing it. I’m not perpetrating any of this or upholding any of this, but you’re also not doing anything to stop it.
“So, we need men of all ages to be having conversations. We need mothers and fathers of teenage boys and young boys to be having those conversations about what it really means to respect and to understand and to want women to do well.”
Working in journalism for over 30 years, Ms Percy has endured constant ‘vile and violent’ harassment not experienced by her male colleagues. She believes this treatment of women journalists is an attempt to silence women.
“It’s about silencing, wiping us from history. It’s about basically – you don’t deserve a role here, you don’t deserve to take up space,” she said.
“It’s actually designed to stop you having a role and a voice.
“And it does shut people down because they’re so taken aback by the vitriol and the level of hate.”
For Ms Percy, such abuse has had the opposite effect, making her ‘more determined to take up space’. In her role as Co-Vice President of the Media Entertainments and Arts Alliance (MEAA) media section, she has been working with Gender Equity Victoria to tackle equality issues in the media.
“It used to be that employers said, ‘well just don’t read the comments’ or ‘don’t be online’, or whatever it is. So, we’ve gone through this two- or three-year process of discussions about what kind of hate there is online for women,” Ms Percy explained.
Ms Percy has used this process to push for more accountability and more of a proactive approach to protecting workers.
“Women who are content makers, who are putting their material out there need to be protected from some of these comments.
“We had a round table with employers and other groups to sort of say, what are you doing? And what do you think you should be doing? And most recently looking at moderating what kinds of things that organisations can do to control the comments.”
“I think that employers need to be much more proactive in anticipating issues, giving their reporters, content makers, agency and also a reporting system, but to be able to say, this is what’s happened to me, what are you going do about it?”