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1 in 2 female retail workers have been sexually harassed at work

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Young women were the most at risk of harassment, according to research published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
female retail workers sexual harassment

Nearly half of female retail workers have experienced sexual harassment at work, a new report has found.

Young women were the most at risk of harassment, according to research published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)

The “Just Another Day in Retail” report examined data from workers, industry leaders, unions and retailers as part of its investigation into gender discrimination in the workplace.

Here’s what it found.

Retail

The retail industry employs 9% of working Australians. It’s the second-largest employer of Australian women and young workers.

Researchers from the University of Sydney studied thousands of survey responses from Australian retail staff, for ANROWS.

They found sexual harassment was “pervasive and persistent” in the industry, and that staff felt unsure about how to report an incident. Those who did were often left “dissatisfied with the process.”

Female retail workers’ experiences of sexual harassment

One in two women and one in four men working in retail have experienced sexual harassment.

The most common forms of harassment included sexually suggestive comments or jokes, intrusive questions, and staring or leering.

36% of sexual harassment of retail workers was perpetrated by customers over the last five years.

ANROWS’ findings

ANROWS called sexual harassment in retail “common and normalised” and said industry attitudes like “the customer is always right” contributed to a poor workplace culture.

Young women, gay men, and workers with a disability were at a higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment, according to ANROWS.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace harms employee wellbeing, career progression and earnings, team cohesion, and the success of businesses and the national economy… Retail is a high-risk industry for workplace sexual harassment.”

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety

Call for action

Researchers called on the retail industry to address the “scourge of sexual harassment” in light of the findings.

The report’s co-author, Professor Rae Cooper, said as a key employer of young Australians, retailers “have a duty of care to protect… workers who are often working their first job.”

ANROWS CEO Tessa Boyd-Caine has called for better reporting processes “to ensure victim-survivors feel safe and empowered to come forward.”

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