Stamping out sexual harassment and sexism at Geoscience Australia through Listen and Learn sessions

Dr James Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Geoscience Australia, models inclusive leadership in action by stamping out workplace sexual harassment and sexism. This came into focus following a Champions of Change report that found 54% of women in STEM contemplated leaving their careers to due to sexual harassment.

Taking personal action to drive change from the bottom up, Dr Johnson says gender equity is “not a peripheral objective for our organisation, but a strategic priority that is integral to our science and impact”.

CEO Listen and Learn sessions

Dr Johnson invited all people at Geoscience Australia to attend CEO Listen and Learn sessions, to speak openly about their lived experiences of sexual harassment and sexism. A safe and supportive environment was cultivated through offering small groups, women-only sessions and ensuring all sessions were facilitated by a psychologist.

To include voices of people who were uncomfortable or unable to attend, an anonymous survey and “Ask James” email were deployed.

Acting on the data

Dr Johnson stated that the findings were “confronting”, with 15% of participants reporting experiences of workplace sexual harassment or sexism, 95% of which were unreported. On International Women’s Day 2021, Dr Johnson delivered a video message to the organisation articulating his commitment to stamp out sexual harassment and sexism.

Acting on the feedback from these sessions, he promised to deliver a Sexual Harassment and Sexism Policy and Procedure, unambiguously identifying these behaviours and that they would not be tolerated, in addition to improved resources for reporting, employee support and mandatory training.

Looking to the future

Geoscience Australia will be launching their Sexual Harassment and Sexism Policy and Procedure in July 2021, which has already been recognised among other Australian Public Service agencies as a model for better practice. A new Sexual Harassment and Sexism Hotline and training resources will be launched in the second half of 2021.

“I am focused on making a safe, equal and inclusive workplace, and I am excited by the progress that we are already making to improve gender equity,” says Dr Johnson, “but I am acutely aware that there is much more to be done and each of us must take responsibility we have for ensuring the safety and equal treatment of all of our colleagues.”


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