Commissioner speaks at CCIWA Conference

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WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Dr John Byrne spoke to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA about the role of workforce diversity in tackling sexual harassment recently.
Dr John Byrne

Dr Byrne said a lack of diversity within workplaces often created a power imbalance that allowed unsafe behaviours such as sexual harassment to survive.

"At the EOC we receive complaints of sexual harassment, about 80 percent are from women and about 20 percent from men but virtually all of the alleged harassers are men.

"For most of the complaints the employers have a high proportion of male employees," he said.

Dr Byrne said a diverse workforce not only benefitted and organisation internally, it provided better customer service through representation of a wider client base.

"A workforce that is not representative of the people it serves is less effective and productive.

"Diversity adds new ideas and ways of working," he said.

Dr Byrne said there were a number of ways the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 could help achieve diversity such as s31 which allowed people to choose a job candidate based on sex for the purpose of achieving equality within an organisation.

"My advice is to set targets for diversity, including gender diversity, and representation of Aboriginal people, culturally and linguistically diverse people and people with disabilities.

"Targets should be set for proportion of employees and also for representation in senior management, as management has the greatest ability to change cultures and set standards and enforce them," he said.

He also said organisations needed to address bias in the recruitment process.

"Unconscious bias is the biggest problem and we need techniques to combat it," he said.

Dr Byrne said with regard to gender diversity, one technique is to ensure both genders are represented on the selection panel.

"If there is a target to increase the proportion of women, the selection panel could have more females than males," he said.


Page reviewed 2 June 2022