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Insurance CEOs back workplace sexual harassment pledge

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Top executives at Hollard, QBE, MetLife and Challenger have signed a pledge to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.

The zero-tolerance pledge against sexual harassment has been signed by more than 100 CEOs of Australia’s major organisations.

QBE Interim MD Australia Frank Costigan, MetLife Australia CEO Richard Nunn, Hollard CEO Richard Enthoven and Challenger CEO Richard Howes all took the #IStandforRespect pledge, promising to stand against gendered harassment and violence and take steps in their organisations to address it.

“We believe not just in diversity but also in inclusion,” Mr Nunn said. "We must create a workplace where all voices are heard, respected and valued. We know this is an important part of being a workplace where people can bring their whole selves to work and thrive and succeed.”

CEO of the Diversity Council of Australia Lisa Annese, who founded the pledge initiative, says it is an opportunity for the private sector to form a united front on the issue, which is the “business of every business”.

The Council says 23% of women and 16% of men experience sexual harassment and the pledge is a starting point and a way for CEOs to contribute to change.

“Sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces since 1984 yet it’s still a problem,” Ms Annese said. “Now is the time to move from words to committed, collective action.”

Ms Annese says predatory personalities that sexually harass are also more likely to “bully and intimidate and cause serious cultural damage to a business”.

The Council estimates sexual harassment costs almost $4 billion in lost productivity and having to replace and rehire people “on the wrong side of a harasser”.

“Businesses can’t afford not to tackle sexual harassment,” she says.

The movement comes after the Federal Government accepted recommendations made in Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report, which examined the nature and prevalence of harassment in Australian workplaces.