Posted on May 1, 2019 by staff

I unleashed my inner feminist to tackle workplace harassment


Gemma McCall was worried that her young daughter would eventually face barriers similar to those she experienced in the workplace – so she decided to do something about it.

Last year the former business development manager and sales executive founded online tool Culture Shift to support victims of harassment in the workplace or student environment.

Report + Support has now been licensed by 40 universities across the country and allows victims to make an anonymous or named report about any incidents that have taken place.

This is then fed back to a central source at the establishment which will then either take action or offer support.

MD McCall – one of three co-founders with Carl Sadd and Stuart Bradley – believes not enough is done to support victims or help them come forward, meaning many incidents go unreported.

“Harassment in the workplace is very interesting because there are things that have been accepted for a really long time, so they are now seen as ‘the way it is’,” McCall told BusinessCloud.

“In light of the #MeToo movement people are starting to have the courage to say what’s not acceptable anymore and calling people out for it, and that’s really positive change because women shouldn’t have to come to work and just accept things the way they are – if they’re uncomfortable with behaviour they should call it out.

“But for every one of them, there might be another ten that haven’t found their voice yet… there’s so much more to do.

“One of my biggest fears with #MeToo was it was just a moment in time [where] people were sharing their stories. I don’t want it to be easily forgotten.

“We’ve got to do something about that and respond to it and give survivors of sexual harassment and bullying a voice.

“The same goes for racist behaviour and micro aggressions – lower-level things that people say and get away with. That shouldn’t be the case.”

The online tool offers a support section in which there are information sheets on different forms of abuse for victims to find information and helplines. The company’s next step is to roll the platform out to working environments.

“In a workplace environment often you hear them say ‘we haven’t had any reports so we obviously don’t have a problem’,” she said.

“That’s a simple view of it because if you’ve got an organisation of a certain size, it’s definitely happening, because statistically it’s happening, but no one has been able or empowered or has the ability to tell you about it.”

McCall said her co-founders are equally passionate about the movement and that being parents has strengthened their views.

“I’ve got a daughter and I never want her to have to experience anything I’ve experienced or be held back in any way just because she’s a girl,” she said.

“At the moment she’s seven and on different days you ask her different things and she wants to be those different things.

“Whatever she chooses to do I want her to be able to do that, I don’t ever want her to think I’m not going to go into that because it’s going to be hard for me.

“From those experiences I unleashed my inner feminist. I am really proud of it and not afraid to say it.”

The Stockport company is now seeking investment to grow its team of seven and push products out faster to more organisations.

McCall, who is originally from Hertfordshire, believes that new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence could play a crucial role in tackling harassment in the future, but there are problems with them for now.

Citing the example of a chatbot she tested which was more interested in a description of the desk than the fictional sexual harassment incident she was communicating, she said: “I really want to expand our development team and innovate with the product. There’s loads of things out there at the moment that are being developed or new technologies that we could potentially incorporate, for example blockchain and artificial intelligence.

“There are problems with these technologies at the moment. I do think that kind of thing could potentially be helpful, but none of it is a replacement for face-to-face counselling and it shouldn’t be. It’s just another way of accessing help and support.

“We are looking to attract investment, so we’re looking for people who are interested in tech for good so that we could do more, quickly. We’re looking to grow our dev team to do that innovation.

“At the moment we’re a small team and there’s only so much that we can do. I’m looking for people who are engaged and excited by the mission and want to join us.”