Girl Talk: Kristy Fraser-Kirk's Sexual Harassment Precedent
How can it be that 30 years after Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin kicked the proverbial butt of their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss in Nine to Five that we are still talking about sexual harassment in the workplace... without irony (designer Alannah Hill's ill-conceived attempts at humour do not count)?
As has been widely reported, former David Jones junior publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk, 27, launched legal action on the eve of the store's spring/summer showing this week (prime publicity time), claiming $37 million in damages against former CEO Mark McInnes, nine board members and the department store, while also setting a whopping new precedent for sexual harassment cases in Australia.
While SMH business reporter Elizabeth Knight untangles the legal detail here, several journalists, commentators, McInnes supporters and DJs loyalists have questioned Fraser-Kirk's motive – and the size of the claim – with the underlying theme: was that really necessary?
I think yes. Because $37 million big ones (equal to 5% of McInnes' salary and 5% of DJ's profits during the time he worked there) speaks loud and clear at a time when we are all too familiar with corporate excess (and have all felt the repercussions, globally) and when CEO salaries at the top 300 companies average $2.3 million a year (in 2009, McInnes took home salary of $1.78 million and a bonus of $2.68 million). Relatively speaking, it's big biccies for big business.
When, as Tory Magquire wrote for The Punch today, just 9% of Australian boards are made up of women and, as noted by marie claire this month, there is still a great disparity between men's and women's wages (just 82% of that of a man's), the picture of institutionalised disadvantage and sexist corporate culture becomes even clearer.
Writing on pay inequity for marie claire, Anna Saunders says, "It's not until they've been in the labour market for a few years...that many women realise they're getting a raw deal. Even then, the corporate "don't ask don't tell" attitude about pay cheques makes inequity hard to detect." This notion could apply equally to attitudes about misconduct.
While $37 million speaks loudly to every male-dominated industry, every company board, every woman in a workplace who might feel disempowered by her circumstances, every big shot who thinks he doesn't have to play by the rules of respectful conduct, and every whistle-blowing workman on a building site, most importantly it will speak to a generation of young women about integrity and standing up to bullies. "It is not just about me," said Fraser-Kirk in a prepared media statement. "I'm a young woman standing here today simply because I said it was not okay, because I said this should never happen to me or to anyone."
Damn domestic violence, support Wayne Cooper
Lara Bingle, Woman's Day, ACA
Girl With a Satchel