Workplace misogyny: ‘don’t rock the boat sweetheart’



Despite the constant battle for equality, there’s still bias against women at work. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

Some women’s well-being and opportunities are being harmed by ongoing workplace misogyny to which they are subjected in the workplace by employers and colleagues.

Journalist, Tracey Spicer experienced what it was like to have your career placed under threat unnecessarily because of gender attitudes.

“It is an ongoing issue because of unconscious and conscious bias,” she said.

“The simple fact is, that some employers and colleagues don’t realise that they are robbing women of opportunities, or belittling them because of their gender.”

In 2006, Channel 10 was accused of unfairly dismissing Ms Spicer via email not long after she returned from maternity leave.

There’s been call for legislation to stop this inequality in the workplace. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

There’s an attitude in society that women are not as capable of leadership.

It’s so ingrained that some women begin to believe it, and let themselves become complacent.

“There’s that old trope about women not being suited to leadership,” Ms Spicer said.

“Tony Abbott even rolled that one out.”

The attitude that women are only suited to particular industries and jobs means there is still a  struggle for women to make their place in male-dominated workplaces.

“Workplaces were designed by men for men after the Industrial Revolution; women are sometimes seen as a hindrance… There are some workplaces which only had male toilets, until recent decades,” she said.

Ms Spicer called for stronger legislation to secure women’s pay and equal rights, as well as training to prevent the bias against women in the workplace.

There is still a low percentage of kwomen in senior management positions. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

“[There needs to be] legislation to protect women’s rights upon return from parental/caring leave, gender pay audits to ensure women are being paid the same and men, and training for employers in unconscious bias,” she said.

Another woman who had to fight to make her voice heard in a male-dominated industry was Lynette Palmen AM.

Ms Palmen reflected on the difficulties she faced being a woman in a senior management position.

“I realised that other women in senior management positions would be feeling the same, it is quite isolating,” she said.

“Women are different and we operate under different sets of terms.”

The lack of women in senior management positions in many industries has nothing to do with education or ability but rather a societal attitude.

“Even though there are more women than men at university by the time they are 35, women in senior management positions are down to 8 per cent because men have a glass elevator,” Ms Palmen said.

Local government worker Sarah Smith* experienced the impact ongoing inequality in the workplace can have on your life and your career.

Sarah Smith* was even subject to inappropriate touching at work. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

Ms Smith said she felt under attack at work from a co-worker who was annoyed by her professional success.

“I really contributed by putting in place better protocols and procedures,” she said.

“Sadly, there were some co-workers who would try and bring me down when I was working hard.”

Ms Smith described how some co-workers bullied and harassed her to a point where she no longer wanted to come to work.

“I would say they made my life hell, and I felt like I was going to get fired if I made a single slip up or spoke out.”

“I became really paranoid and on edge about everything.”

Ms Smith said she was regularly the target of harassment and derogatory comments aimed at her because she was a female.

“One man went to the lengths of making up malicious rumours in the office, and he took advantage of my insecurities,” she said.

“What bothered me worse than nasty comments was being belittled by being called pet names or touched inappropriately.”

Some women are forced to go to the Union and leave their jobs after facing constant misogyny. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

Ms Smith said she was not the only female in the workplace who was a target of harassment.

“She would come to me and cry and I eventually felt like I had to do something about it,” she said.

Smith said she took multiple points of action to see something done about the situation but the lack of support they received from those in leadership positions was abysmal.

“I told the first in line boss about what was happening and he tried to sweep it under the carpet and deny any such problem existed,” she said.

“He told me; ‘don’t rock the boat sweetheart.’”

Women still have trouble in male-dominated workplaces. Source: Chelsea Mappas.

Smith said the only option left was to go to the Union where both women were given support to leave the workplace.

“The Union were wonderful and stepped in… They advised us to basically work with the Union to get a pay out and get out of the poisonous environment.”

Smith said she wishes she stood up for herself sooner and insists other women do the same.

“Don’t let yourself be a victim, work with other women and be strong and stand up for yourself,” she said.

Women are still unequal in many sectors of employment, whether that be unequal pay, opportunities or value.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the source. 

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