I think the conversation we're having right now is invaluable, and I thank all the brave women who have come forward to talk about their experiences, whether it's publicly in the media or privately to any of us who have taken this seriously.
I think part of this is about bringing it out from the shadows, and that's exactly what our Prime Minister has done time and again by making sure that every time someone contravenes a woman's right to a safe workplace or a person's right to a safe workplace, he has taken action. Leadership is another really big part. Making sure that you have a zero-tolerance culture for harassment and sexual violence means that when something comes forward to you as the leader of an organization, the leader of an office, you take it seriously and you act promptly.
I can't tell you how many stories I've heard from people who've said, “I complained, but nothing happened” or “I told someone this was happening, and they told me, 'That's okay; he's just joking around'.” That's a very common response people will get: “He doesn't mean anything by it” or “He does that to all the women.” These are very common statements that you hear on a regular basis. When we let that behaviour slide, essentially, first of all, we're invalidating a woman's experience of being harassed. We're invalidating her request for a safer workplace.
I'm 51 years old. When I was in my twenties and working in car dealerships for a while, this conversation was a regular daily occurrence. We wouldn't even have thought to speak out about it; it was so internalized that this was part of our experiences as females in a male-dominated sector that was all about drinking hard and selling cars. In fact, times have changed, so it's about leadership. It's about legislation. It's about all of the people who will stand up and say, “That's not okay.”
Finally, I think I would say that we have an obligation to not be bystanders when we know.... We talk a lot about the whisper network. This is a phrase that's new to me in this work, but certainly I recognized it immediately. That's the informal network that happens, especially in places like this where there are high degrees of power and low degrees of power, where people say to avoid that person because, in other words, that person is really dangerous.
We need to take those whispers out of the shadows. We need to hold people accountable for their behaviour. We need to do that by not being bystanders, by saying, “Hey, I don't know if you know that your behaviour makes people uncomfortable.” Sometimes people aren't aware. It doesn't have to be the most dramatic infraction or violence. It can happen when sometimes people use a certain style of joking that makes people really uncomfortable. If you have the power and the ability to say to your colleague, “You know, when you said that to Sally, I don't know if you noticed the way she looked, but she looked really uncomfortable, and you might want to think about using that style of communicating.”
It's a whole bunch of things that will change the culture.