Is the workplace a mans world? I reflected on my own experiences, personally and professionally, and like most women out there, we've all been in those situations which are, out of order, sexist, eyebrow raising and sometimes, just wholly unacceptable!
I’m a strong person and most of my pals will tell you, usually have a pretty good come back, but I haven’t always been that way. This confidence is something I’ve learnt over my almost 22 years (yikes is it really that long?) working in an office environment.
...Quite few years ago, I was a sales assistant in a busy male dominated sales team, there were two offices, one based in on CBD and the other in the outer suburbs.
On a regular basis the male sales team would often chat or what they would describe as “banter”. Yeah, well, banter it was not! I like a good joke and a bit of wind up, but wow, these dudes on this particular occasion where stepping well over the line. A group of three sales guys where discussing one of the female team members in another office, a very highly charged sexual conversation took place on the office floor.
I was super offended, but certainly wasn’t strong enough to stand up and tell them to cut it out. So myself and another female team member, Sarah, emailed the girl in question.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now I know that wasn't best way to deal with it, but we were angry and didn’t feel empowered by the business to know any other way to deal with it.
This is when all wholly hell broke loose, there was more drama than an Eastenders Christmas special. All the men all rallied around to support their three male co-workers, calling us "trouble makers", “shit-stirrers” and “Bitches”, and a couple of other names...but I'm sure you get the picture.
Myself and my female colleague were made to feel embarrassed and guilty by management and the rest of the business.
We attended endless meetings having to defend our actions. The way the business dealt with this situation was disgusting, and some of these meetings we were pitted against our male colleagues, essentially a free for all argument, with insults hurling. Not cool!
The three male colleagues became the victims, and myself and my colleague became trouble makers and bully’s. It was a poisonous environment, and it was driven by the attitude from the leadership team. They allowed this type of behaviour. No one questioned what the "three" had done, it wasn’t flagged as inappropriate. The problem, well that was me and my colleague for daring to speak up.
I have three young children, all boys, and I take this as a huge responsibility to myself and to society to teach them respect for everyone, have integrity and to give them the confidence to stand up to injustice, because I don’t want my boys, ever, to be those "three sales guys".