QMU graduate tackles sexual harassment within the theatre with new sector guides

By Press Office

A Queen Margaret University (QMU) graduate has developed her master’s dissertation into two new sector guides on navigating and tackling sexual harassment with the Federation of Scottish Theatre. These new guides will give both employers and employees a better understanding of harassment in the workplace and signpost people towards support. 

The Federation of Scottish Theatre is a membership and development organisation for the industry of dance, theatre and opera in Scotland. They advocate for the needs of the sector and represent them to the Scottish and UK governments, Creative Scotland and local authorities.  

Lisa Sangster studied an MA Arts, Festival and Cultural Management at QMU in 2019. During her studies, she wrote her dissertation on sexual harassment within Scottish Theatre. Her experience researching this topic made her determined to try and make a change, which is why she sent her final dissertation to likeminded professionals within the field. 

After working with an Edinburgh based theatre company on an awareness raising campaign, Lisa was invited to join a working group set up by the Federation of Scottish Theatre where they which created new sexual harassment guides for both freelance and fully employed staff. 

The result of this work is two separate guides: A navigation guide for freelancers and employees and an action guide for employers. The navigation guide helps employees understand if harassment is happening to them, what options they have to deal with it, and what support is available.  

The action guide helps employers tackle sexual harassment at work. It proposes four principles and asks organisations to embed these into their thinking and practice around the issue. It also offers practical steps they can take to ensure they are working towards best practice across the sector. 

Lisa Sangster discussed the importance of these new guides and her work in developing them. She explained: “In 2019, I wrote my dissertation about sexual harassment in Scottish Theatre. Undertaking that piece of research really inspired me to try and make a difference in the sector, so after I finished, I sent my dissertation to people in the industry who I thought would be interested in tackling the issue.  

“The theatre company Stellar Quines was the first to contact me and I worked with them to create an awareness campaign, which you can still find on its website. During this work, Fiona Sturgeon Shea at the Federation of Scottish Theatre invited Elaine Stirrat and me to be part of a working group it was setting up.  

“From there, the work divided into two strands, guidance for freelancers and employees and practical advice for organisations (many are small and lacking in formal human resource experience).  

I was co-chair of the working group, alongside Elaine. The content of the guides was created by us and informed by focus groups we ran with marginalised freelance workers and human resource professionals in the arts. I was responsible for authoring the guides and I have worked closely with the designer to ensure they are user friendly.    

“The hope is that those working in Scottish Theatre will use these guides to better understand what to do in situations where sexual harassment is taking place. The more informed the community is, the more openly we can address these issues. 

“These guides are an important contribution towards supporting a culture change in the sector. They will hopefully empower individuals to take action when they witness harassment, and support people experiencing it to feel reassured and supported. They are important for organisations as they seek to develop a consistent approach across the sector, which is essential if we are to minimise unacceptable behaviour at work. Having resources that are easy to read, jargon free and open to all is critical if we are to improve responses to incidents of sexual harassment.” 

Queen Margaret University’s Professor David Stevenson, Dean of the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management, said: “It is inspiring to see that Lisa has further developed the research she conducted while studying at QMU to develop guides which will help create change within the creative industries, improve processes and influence a cultural shift in attitude and behaviours across the theatre world in Scotland. Her work is an excellent example of the type of research we encourage QMU staff, students and graduates to progress – research which has real relevance to society, and which can provoke change that ultimately improves lives.” 

Currently, Lisa is currently studying a diploma in integrative counselling and psychotherapy after developing an interest in how we embed trauma-informed practice into human resource processes. 

Notes to Editor

For further media information contact John Gillespie, Media Relations and Content Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: jgillespie@qmu.ac.uk, and copy to press office E: pressoffice@qmu.ac.uk.