Sexual harassment in the High Court

Dyson Heydon.

It’s an unusual name and one associated with power. As a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, Dyson Heydon wielded power in the highest court in the land.

And now the name Dyson Heydon is associated with sexual harassment and a shattered reputation.

If you have seen the press in the past few days, you will know that an independent investigation commissioned by the High Court of Australia has upheld numerous allegations of sexual harassment against the former High Court Justice.

Since then, additional stories of harassment have come to light and it seems Mr Heydon’s reputation for predatory behaviour toward young women was a widely-known secret in legal circles.

What is it about powerful men and the bullying and harassment of younger women?

A study released in March by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, found that workplace sexual harassment occurs in every industry, in every location and at every level in Australian workplaces (see

Perhaps unsurprisingly, workplaces with a higher risk of sexual harassment are those in male-dominated industries. Of particular interest to me was the finding that workplaces with a higher risk of sexual harassment also include those with fewer women in senior positions.

The report also sets out the impact of sexual harassment on the workplace. Put simply, it is devastating for the victims and enormously costly for business.

We must have zero tolerance for the abuse of power. If it can happen in the upper echelons of society it can happen, and is happening, everywhere.

Dyson Heydon. An unusual name, and perhaps the name needed to start a #metoo movement in legal circles.


Let’s get more women into senior roles so that there are more gender-balanced leadership teams and fewer workplaces in the higher risk categories for sexual harassment.

I have helped women to secure pay rises and promotions by coaching them in negotiation skills. Get in touch if you want to find out more.





Can learning to negotiate really change your life?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, but it takes practice.

You negotiate every day. It may not seem like it, but you are negotiating every time you try to influence someone to give you something or do something for you. Sometimes our negotiations are big ones – promotions, pay rises, supplier negotiations – and sometimes they are small – who is picking up the kids or getting the coffee.

It’s clear that being a better negotiator will help us with the big negotiations that have profound impacts on our lives. New jobs, partners, promotions, homes – the outcomes of these negotiations do change our lives, undoubtedly.

But are the small negotiations that important? I would argue that they really are. Getting used to asking for small, low stakes things will help us prepare for when we are asking for the big things.

A client of mine is highly successful in her chosen profession and has a unique and sought-after skill set. Even though she is extremely capable and well regarded in her industry, she was paralysed when it came to negotiating a promotion she knew she deserved. Over several months I challenged her to engage in larger and larger negotiations with people around her. She learnt to ask without getting agitated, she learnt to identify her stress triggers and she progressively gained the confidence to tackle the big negotiation she was facing.

We all want to be great negotiators when we are in the big arena, in the big moments that change our lives, but success there starts with practice in the small negotiations.

And no-one wants to be the person who always gets the coffee, so learn to say no from time to time and build your negotiating skills one day (or one coffee run) at a time.