Don’t Be a Bystander—Tools to End Harassment
/ Author: Andrew Regnerus 855 Rate this article:
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Don’t Be a Bystander—Tools to End Harassment

It is mostly men who create and perpetuate the problem of harassment, so it is up to men to learn about it and end it

By Andrew Regnerus, Ontario Construction Coordinator

Last fall, I read a story about an intensive course—Be More Than a Bystander—that gives men tools to stand up for women who face male bullying and harassment on the job.

While it is a shame that such programs are needed, we ought to promote any effort that helps human flourishing, dignity, and respect.

Be More than a Bystander had origins with the BC Centre for Women in the Trades who used a BC Lions football club program. The Industry Training Authority, a BC crown corporation, is responsible for the program.

CLAC has offered Be More than a Bystander throughout BC. We offer similar programs in other provinces, often in the context of soft-skills training, and we will continue to offer similar programs more frequently and with higher intensity.

Why? Here are five reasons. 

  1. Women in construction comprise just four to five percent, on average, nationally, of construction workers on the tools, which signals there may be an acceptance problem.
  2. We must remove any barriers to good careers in construction by which women, too, can take pride in their work and provide well for their families.
  3. Despite knowing about a trades shortage and knowing that women can excel in trades, we continue to exclude half of our population. The industries and employers that best welcome women to careers are the industries and employers who will overcome personnel shortages soonest.
  4. It makes us better people and a better society when everyone is included and all can flourish.
  5. Many men are insecure about change and perceived “threats” to historical norms, and we don’t often deal well with our emotions. We may want to preserve our place in our rough and tumble world. We are bystanders because we fear a downside for doing the right thing.

It is mostly men who create and perpetuate the problem of harassment so it is up to men to learn about it and end it. Here are 10 ways men can help end harassment and welcome women into construction

  1. Learn prevention strategies such as reducing and eliminating systemic conditions that allow harassment to arise.
  2. Be able to identify harassment, bullying, and discrimination—by others and ourselves.
  3. Eliminate the bad, ranging from derogatory bathroom graffiti to physical assault, and adopt the good.
  4. Shift the culture by changing male behaviours that keep many women from trades careers and chase away the few who do enter the construction industry.
  5. Be influencers and cause a ripple effect—learn and teach others.
  6. Extend the health and safety maxim see something, say something by adding do something. Know how to intervene and have the courage to do so.
  7. Overcome feeling awkward and uncomfortable about helping female coworkers by learning how to deescalate threats. Know how and when to assist a woman to a safe place and then deal with the offender.
  8. Employers should ensure health and safety programs include preventative strategies to gender-based harassment and violence. A policy and procedure framework should address risk assessment and education and best practices for recruiting and retaining women.
  9. Best practices can be further extended and promoted by purchasers and site owners, making work sites safer and more accommodating for women.
  10. Listen to the good advice of women who have seen and experienced harassment first hand and know what works and what doesn’t.

Members, stewards, health and safety representatives, and employers can contact their CLAC representative about how we can facilitate training, awareness, and intervention strategies for your workplace. Together, we can make the construction more accommodating and welcoming for women.

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