It’s been more than two years since a shocking report titled ‘Still just a bit of banter?‘ revealed that more than half of all UK women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
While companies and universities have come under increasing pressure to take meaningful action, digital technology entrepreneur Gemma McCall argues that more needs to be done to tackle the issue – and technology can play a crucial role.
The ‘adopted’ Mancunian is one of three co-founders of Culture Shift, a Greater Manchester-based tech for good startup with ambitions to make a difference to victims of sexual violence, harassment and abuse around the world.
The startup’s first product is Report + Support, a secure online reporting tool which enables organisations to keep their team and visitors safe by giving them a platform to report harassment and seek support.
Culture Shift founders Gemma McCall, Stuart Bradley and Carl Sadd
Report + Support
Users of the Report + Support platform can make a formal – or anonymous – report, allowing organisations to analyse worrying trends and identify patterns of behaviour, even when victims don’t yet feel confident enough to make a named report.
“The platform is there for victims or witnesses of any kind of harassment or abuse – to either report it anonymously and let a company or university know that something bad has happened or to seek support from local organisations,” McCall says.
“The potential for this tech is absolutely huge because every day there seems to be something in the papers – whether that’s sexual violence or hate crime.”
McCall believes the #MeToo movement has been “a huge catalyst for change” and giving organisations “the kick they needed to stamp out unacceptable behaviour” – but stresses that the problem is far from over.
Culture Shift’s platform was born out of a project that branding agency Trust (of which McCall is a director) did in collaboration with the University of Manchester.
“As the appetite within the higher education sector for the platform became apparent we decided to launch Culture Shift just over a year ago,” McCall says.
The startup has so far licenced its platform to more than 30 universities across the UK and is now in talks with institutions in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
“So many of the universities we work with are really risk averse but they understand that they need to do something and they’ve put their trust in us and the platform that we’ve developed,” McCall says. “I’m so proud of that!”
Having enjoyed significant traction within higher education, the founders have now their sights set on the corporate sector, hoping to help businesses tackle harassment and abuse by giving victims a meaningful platform to raise their concerns.
“Of course we want to continue growing in the higher education sector but we’re now having conversations with companies and sporting organisations,” McCall says. “We’ve also recently launched a campaign aimed at HR directors in the corporate sector and we’re also exploring the charity sector.”
Culture Shift has been self-funded since inception but the founders are now looking to take on external investment.
“We’ve funded it ourselves through profits from Trust and that’s got us so far. But in order for us to grow quicker and expand the team quicker we’re exploring different funding options.”
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