Bringing sexual harassment policies to life

How to bring policies to life within our organisations when it comes to sexual harassment, is a question many share as we embark on this work. In this webinar, I shared what I think my most valuable contribution to this conversation is; my story of how I entered this work, what I have learnt along the way and how we at The Consent Collective, bring this work to life.

Listen to the webinar below

Q&A session

In the Q&A session that followed (this part is not recorded) some important themes were raised and below is a summary of some of these. Of course, we did not come to any tick-box conclusions or find the golden ticket answers, that’s not what we were looking to do but what we did do together is open this conversation up just that bit further and shared thoughts and questions and planted seeds.

I hope the seeds below are useful to you in your work too.

Discussion topic 1: The ROI conversation

We all understand that the safety of our students and employees is an important part of this work but how can we measure the impact of what we do, specifically looking at ROI figures?

Answer: Examining the various areas of impact in an organisation is key to understanding what the ROI is for any work you invest in doing. In universities, areas of impact to examine include drop-out rates, academic achievement, employment metrics as well as legal fees in sexual harassment cases and money spent on non-disclosure agreements. One of many articles and research papers highlighting the substantial costs of NDA’s alone: UK universities pay out £90m on staff 'gagging orders' in past two years

And within workplaces, areas to consider, include of course legal costs of sexual harassment cases, which we know is not insignificant, and there are many articles and research papers on these figures. Other areas to consider when asking what the return on investments for your organisation is in doing this work include, PMI spend, specifically spend on mental health categories, which include significant numbers of cases of sexual violence and the long term impact of these experiences on wellbeing.

The study shows a strong association between mental illness and sexual and domestic violence and many further research papers are available if you use a simple search.

So, this is about knowing and trusting that the costs to any business are already entwined in many spend areas, we don’t need to look too far but we do need to get to know where these costs are. Other areas of impact are talent retention, talent attraction, absence figures, OH spend and the cost of PR problems caused by mishandled sexual harassment cases. There really is not a lack of areas to look to find these costs to business already.

For further information, you can read our Workplace whitepaper.

Discussion topic 2: Choosing a good provider to work with

‘With so many service providers emerging in this space, from Health apps to reporting systems, how can we identify what the right provision is for us?’

Answer: It is absolutely right that specialists are required to help organisations with this work. It requires a specialist insight into the topics of sexual harassment and sexual violence to help organisations focus their efforts in the right places, in the right ways, with the right content and support in place. Looking at EAP provision, for instance, you may see content on trauma but does it specifically refer to trauma after sexual violence? If not, then that large population of people who seek support will not feel that their specific need is understood.

And using tech as part of this work is a great addition to an expert-led strategic approach but cannot replace the specialist interventions, language and content needed.

Discussion topic 3: Lone voices doing this work

‘What would the advice be for anyone doing this work as a ‘lone voice’ within their organisation?’

Answer: Find your community on this, even if they are currently outside of your organisation. Doing this work, especially if the work is still to convince your organisation that this is an important and big issue, can be very exhausting. It is after-all a social shift we are seeing, moving something from the rim to the centre, just as we’ve seen with mental health for instance. And the work of bringing it to the centre can feel like heavy lifting. So join groups and networks so that you can be supported too. And within your organisation, find the choir, it’s huge!