Women deserve Respect not Harassment

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The recent sexual harassment scandal in the Australian Army is not surprising and still shows that we have a long way to go before women are fully accepted and respected in any occupation – but more specifically in male dominant roles. I totally respect and uphold the Army Chief of Staff’s response to the incidents that have occurred. His speech should be the mantra of every industry and company that employ women.

 

I experienced harassment in my first stages of Tafe when I was doing my apprenticeship 6 years ago. If you want to read some of my experiences feel free to read Tafe & Sex and Tafe & Sex II. I was the only girl in most of my Tafe classes. At the time, I wanted to get through Tafe with as little drama as possible because I stuck out like a sore thumb and didn’t want to stick out more by accusing the boys of harassment. I had entered their world and felt that what I experienced was to be expected.

 

How wrong I was to think this way and I have only come to realize it recently. Just because a role is generally performed by a male, doesn’t give them the right to harass a woman when she is given the opportunity and choice to do a trade. Men don’t own ‘male dominant’ industries. The plumbing trade may be mainly performed by males, but males don’t own ‘plumbing’. They chose their roles because such jobs were only ever offered and thus done by men.

 

It needs to be said that the way plumbing apprenticeships are being done now in Australia requires not just hands on skills but a level of intelligence as well. The paper trail when you become a plumber is astronomical (as it is in any industry or business I suspect). Knowing how to quote properly, compile OH & S manuals and Work Method Statements that are site specific for each job means that the ‘I barely passed high school, but I’m good with my hands’ students are no longer the preferred applicant when it comes to apprenticeships. This is why more girls are flourishing in a trade and why businesses are foolish not to put on female apprentices.

 

In hindsight, the harassment made me stronger in that I learned how to stand up for myself when I was the minority. It also made me realize how blessed I was to work with men who had strong values and knew how to treat me with respect.

 

The only attention women in the trades and army want is respect. Women make a valuable contribution to the workforce and harassment of any kind should not be tolerated.