June 22, 2020
Issue 08

MAWSA approves new sexual harassment policy

The MAWSA Executive Committee approved a new sexual harassment policy at their June 22nd meeting. 

The approval of this new policy now formalises their goal to uphold a positive workplace culture and have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct.

MAWSA President Jacob Paterson said this new document provides “a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that covers everyone who works with us and engages with us” and shared his desire for MAWSA to be an example for students of a healthy workplace.

“Sexual abuse is a huge issue in the student community, and we want to be leaders around this issue and set a really good tone and precedent,” he said.

“We believe it’s all about practicing what you preach – we can’t go out there and run campaigns about sexual harassment and sexual abuse in our community if we don’t internally set a really good culture.”

The new policy has been adapted from a template developed by Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association convenor, Steph Dyhrberg. With 26 years of experience in the legal profession, Dyhrberg has long been a voice against sexual harassment in the workforce.

Paterson explained that Dyhrberg created the template because of the scandals around law firms being notoriously bad workplaces whose culture consisted of sexual harassment of bullying.

“She was sick and tired of the excuse from law firms being that it’s too hard to draft a sexual harassment policy – so she drafted an amazing one!” Paterson exclaimed.

MAWSA learnt from Dyhrberg’s template and adapted it to suit a student association. They also endeavour to follow her guidelines of creating a culture that doesn’t condone sexual violence while having a clear risk management strategy for what to do if sexual harassment does occur.

MAWSA will be hosting regular educational training sessions with representatives from the Sexual Assault Prevention Network (SAPN) and will ensure that all workers are provided with a sexual harassment workshop during their induction.

“It’s all about having the education and setting that culture from the start,” Paterson said, “Instead of waiting for an incident and then dealing with it like bottom-of-the-hill ambulance kind of style.”