Two in five women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Let that sink in for a moment. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue through survivor interviews, informative features and ongoing news coverage. The ultimate goal? To help dismantle workplace sexual harassment and assault in Australia.
After interviewing 32 female teachers from three elite private boys' schools in Australia, Monash University's Faculty of Education discovered female teachers are "vulnerable to sexual harassment due to the school’s status and unique constructs" and "transactional relationships" with parents.
Researchers found several teachers had been "discouraged" from calling out students' sexiest remarks in order to keep parents "on side" as parents are like clients because they are "paying an awful lot of money."
Some teachers who had reprimanded students for derogatory sexual jokes or behaviour were then called to a meeting with a supervisor, and researchers say this sparks concern of whether "boys are mobilising parent-school relations to act as a cover for sexual harassment."
Female teachers also weren't believed by colleagues in certain instances, and some teachers in the early stages of their career felt they were to blame when an incident took place.
The study also found sexual harassment was not only rife on school grounds but on Facebook and other online forums.
"If elite private schools are run like ‘businesses’ and ‘bad news’ can spread, then it stands to reason that market pressures might lead administrators to play down or ‘disappear’ sexual harassment before these incidents come to parents’ attention," the study's authors said in a statement on Thursday.
“Our contention in this paper is not the homogenising claim that all boys harass their teachers, but that sexual harassment is the hidden product of heteronormative ‘machinery’ that organises relational life within elite private boys’ schools.”
The study's lead researcher, Dr George Variyan, said the findings indicate both practice and school policies need to be reviewed by school leaders and policy-makers coming together to addresss the issue.
Co-author, Professor Jane Wilkinson, said "broader transparency around teachers' experiences in these schools" is essential.
"This ecology of discourses and practices, if not understood and tackled radically, will likely only continue and see female teachers continue to experience sexual harassment in the workplace," she said.
Now is the time for educational institutions to wake up and stamp out this behaviour for good.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service