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Sexual harassment rife in financial services: O'Neill

Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill has said the sexual harassment of women is rife within the financial services industry, not just at AMP.

Speaking to the Financial Services Council at a virtual event, the Senator said she was disturbed after hearing of the alleged harassment suffered by Julia Szlakowski when working with Boe Pahari.

"She gave a truly horrifying recount of her experience at one of the biggest companies in the country that is critical and has been held in such high esteem over many decades," O'Neill said.

"AMP, like all of the big providers, is critical to the economic wellbeing and social wellbeing in the services it provides to Australia.

"We need it to be successful, we need it to be sustainable and we need it to be professional."

O'Neill said that Szlakowski's story reflects that of many women who are forced out of the industry before they are able to reach a position of leadership.

"Her experiences [at AMP] reveal exactly why women who come out of university, identified with higher skills and talents, have entered into a toxic workplace where they were subjected to incredible sexual harassment suffer mental ill-health, live with the challenges of that for a life time and exit the sector," she said.

"That is happening to too many.  Many of them are walking away silently, she did too, but finally she came and put her story on the record and she is not alone."

O'Neill said she has personally had a number of women contact her about issues with cultural practices inside the sector as a whole.

"This is replete across the entire sector.  I don't want to single AMP out as a particularly egregious example where everybody else is doing the right thing," she said.

"It is just one example of what is being reported across a large number of very significant players in the financial services sector.  It shouldn't shock people; they know what is going on."

O'Neill said that those who do come forward should be rewarded by the company, as opposed to being silenced.

"The people who are reporting in, who are being called 'whistleblowers', would be better perceived as very significant assets to these companies, to give them the opportunity to intervene early and effectively," she said.

"To create a safer workplace, a model workplace, where mental health is prized and given premium value, so those doing the work in the sector can look after the rest of the community."

Read more: AMPBoe PahariFinancial Services CouncilFSCJulia SzlakowskiLabor Senator Deborah O'Neil
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