Let’s stamp out sexual harassment in adland as office working returns
A view from Pippa Glucklich

Let’s stamp out sexual harassment in adland as office working returns

The recent article by Zoe Scaman, the founder of Bodacious, on the endemic nature of sexual harassment and bullying in adland sent shockwaves through the industry. It’s now time to say enough is enough.

Zoe Scaman’s recent post has understandably shocked and horrified many, but sadly her experiences don’t come as a surprise to me as a long-standing steering committee member of timeTo, the not-for-profit initiative set up in 2018 by the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL to end sexual harassment in our industry. The examples shared by the brave women in Zoe’s piece show misogyny and harassment are still frighteningly endemic in our business.

Our initial research study back in 2018 generated an incredible response from over 3,500 people and showed that sexual harassment is not a thing of the past in our industry, but depressingly still very much alive and kicking today. As Zoe highlighted in her piece, our survey told us that 26% of people have been sexually harassed at work and, of those, 72% more than once. Just as Zoe experienced when she started out, we found that a fifth of respondents aged 18 to 24 had already been harassed in their first job. This is simply not acceptable.

A lot has been achieved since that first study. In the last three years we’ve developed a code of conduct to combat sexual harassment, with a toolkit of downloadable assets to help businesses embed this into their working policies; created a powerful advertising campaign ‘Where do you draw the line?’ with our agency, Lucky Generals; designed excellent training to eradicate behaviours that are unacceptable; and offer a confidential helpline staffed by NABS experts to give support to the women and men affected. And importantly, 283 businesses have signed up to become timeTo endorsers, publicly adopting our code of conduct, actively demonstrating to their teams that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in their organisations.

So, lots for timeTo, our industry and especially those 283 businesses, to be proud of. Yet that’s just a fraction of the thousands of companies in our sector. Worse still, as Zoe shared with such agonising detail, we know sexual harassment is still happening, day in and day out. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the recent lockdowns have meant sexual harassment has gone away. Yes, it has created a safer working environment for some and being home-based has meant they can work freely with less fear of being harassed. Yet we know that harassment has still gone on via Zoom, text and email. 

Research we carried out in Autumn 2020 told us that 49% are concerned that sexual harassment will be a much bigger issue once we return to offices, with fear of “pent up” feelings being released when we are together in person. 

We applaud Zoe and those who contributed to her piece, for speaking up. We are here to support them and anyone else that has had similar experiences. And we feel their anger too. We heard loud and clear in Zoe’s horrifying post of the devastating effect sexual harassment can have on those affected; it ruins lives and careers, and our beloved industry is losing talent as a result. We simply will not tolerate any more stories like this. 

So, as we contemplate a return to the office, it’s time for us all to take action, it’s #timeTo change. If you are one of the many men in our industry who hold yourself and others accountable and do the right thing, then please make your voice heard. Here’s what all of us – men and women alike - can, and should, do: -

  • Sign up to become a timeTo endorser now. 

  • Ask if your company has a clear and active policy on sexual harassment and is a timeTo endorser – if not, why not? 

  • Get trained. There’s a free taster session for all and a 2-hour paid for session available via NABS.

  • Support and report – speak up; be an ally; share timeTo’s work. 

And finally, if you have been affected by sexual harassment, call NABS on 0800 707 6607 for free, confidential support and advice. 

Pippa Glucklich is the chief executive of Electric Glue and WACL representative on the timeTo steerco

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