Make sexual harassment a thing of the past

Helen Duddy
Helen Duddy

#stucwomen18 STUC Women’s Conference slammed the sexual harassment of women whether in the workplace, in schools, in wider society or in the trades union movement.

Conference backed a range of measures to the tackle the power imbalances that underpin such harassment and to create the widespread cultural change needed to end it once and for all. UNISON’s amendment supported Unite’s call for a Conference anti-harassment policy and demanded that this include clear guidance on how the policy should be implemented and enforced.

UNISON’s Helen Duddy speaking in support, said that the sexual harassment of women, whether in the workplace, the community or in education, is just as, if not more prevalent than when she was young.

“Those of us who are a wee bit longer in the tooth could have wished that our daughters and grand-daughters were not facing the same harassment and discrimination that we did.

“But we see that this behaviour is still widespread. Men still use the cover of “office banter” to justify putting women down.

“As the motion says, it’s about power imbalance. Where men have more power than women, and let’s face it, that happens more often than we would like, they feel they can treat women disrespectfully and in a sexist way.”

Helen added however that not all men behave like this and they need to be part of the solution as well as the problem.

“It would be nice to think that men in the trade union movement would show an example to other men, given that trade unions are all about equality and fairness. Sadly we know that is not always the case,” said Helen.

“That is why we support Unite’s call for a conference anti-harassment policy to be distributed at all STUC Conferences,” she said, adding however that we need to make sure that includes clear guidance on not just how the policy should be implemented, but how it will be enforced. How are those who breach the guidance going to be held to account and challenged to reflect on and change their behaviour?

“We need to empower and educate not just our young women but also our young men to recognise the importance of treating women and girls with dignity and respect.

“But we also need our more seasoned male activists to recognise that they have a crucial role in changing the cultures in our society so that harassment is no longer acceptable and men no longer abuse their power to intimidate and oppress women.

“So let’s hope that when my grand-daughters become parents themselves, their daughters won’t have to face the harassment and discrimination that we see every day in the press,” said Helen, saying that her wish for them is that “they can feel confident that they will be valued and accepted for who they are as a matter of course and without having to fight for it.

“And we need to make change for those women who, for whatever reason, don’t have a voice,” she added calling on us all to work to ensure that sexual harassment of women becomes a thing of the past.

More information can be found at

And the STUC website

STUC Womens Conference Home