#Interview: Scannain Talks the Amplify Women Harassment Toolkit with Sarah Kiernan
In response to the revelations of harassment in Irish theatre, the #MeToo and #IrishWeinstein hashtags, Amplify Women, an umbrella group thatrepresents, works with or carries out research about women working in the cultural and media industries,has produced a toolkit for dealing with harassment and bullying in the workplace. The guide details what to do if experiencing harassment. It provides advice on making a complaint at work, or a criminal complaint, and includes useful information on who to contact and links to further information.
Scannain spoke to Sarah Kiernan (Co-Chair of Women in Film and Television) about Amplify Women’s new guide to harassment and bullying in the workplace, The Harassment Toolkit.
When was Amplify Women set up?
It was set up this time last year. The US Embassy ran a Creative Mind Series and they had an event on Women in the Arts and at that a group of us were talking to Frances Fitzgerald and she basically seemed to be saying to us “You all seem to be doing the same thing and just remember you don’t need to invent the wheel.”
After that we got together snd decided we should do something. We ran a brainstorming day with different women’s organizations in the arts and came up with the idea if we had an umbrella group from the wider artistic communities, we could strategise more. When all the allegations came out recently, we wanted to come up with something positive. So we got together and decided on the Harassment Toolkit. It’s been a very positive experience and we got this document together in two weeks. We had some really great people helping us, including Ivana Bacik (Labour Party Senate Leader).
What has been the response to it?
The response has been good. I mean we did Women’s Podcast with Róisín Ingle last week, which was released on Monday. And it’s done very well on Twitter, and you guys did an article on it. And we’ve had some other traction about it. I’m doing the Waking the Media event, which is being run by Una Mullally and I’m going to be speaking about it. Yeah it seems to be going out there and people seem to be responding well to it.
It was very timely…
The idea was we wanted to get something very practical and we were hearing from people who were freelancers, who thought the law didn’t apply to them. But actually it does. It absolutely does.
We wanted people to feel empowered so people could see there were avenues they could pursue and that they could inform themselves before talking to someone if that’s what they wanted to do. And also to be able to distinguish between when it is a criminal matter or where it’s something that can be dealt with within the workplace. Employers sometimes dont want to have any liability. Unfortunately they do.
We want people to use it to start making these complaints and we need to help those around us who need help.
It’s very empowering for myself too. But even people need to talk about it and know that the support is there for them. If that’s what they get out of this then we’ve done a good job. It’s written in plain English, what does dignity at work mean? You don’t take bad days out on colleagues, you treat them with respect and manners. If you treat people properly there will be less stress and people will be more productive.
Regarding #MeToo and #IrishWeinstein certain women and men have spoken out in Ireland. What do you think of “Innocent until proven guilty?”
I think it can be very hard to judge. I wouldn’t want to discourage people against speaking out about their experiences. However they have to be careful in how they do it. The consequences of someone being wrongly accused are huge and that is why it is so difficult to publish stories unless there has been a conviction or a finding against somebody.
I think there are ways of complaining and that the Toolkit is there to show you how to do it. Even if you feel your employer is not listening to you, you can still go to the Workplace Relations Commission and make a complaint that the employer hasn’t dealt with properly.