20/20 - Can it get any clearer? The realities of workplace sexism.

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

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2017 was the year of the silence breakers. It was the year in which the world finally started to listen to the stories that had been repeatedly told for years. It was the year in which sisterhood was resurrected in the form of solidarity and unity from shared experience. It was the year in which the phrase #metoo echoed around the world. Hauntingly familiar stories of abuse, harassment and misconduct were exposed across industries – Hollywood, parliament, sport, music – the names might have been different, but the stories were the same. A mass uncovering of the abuse of power and the victimisation of women throughout the working world. Hearing about these instances in the media, in worlds that appear so far removed from your own, you can forget how close to home instances of workplace gender-based discrimination really are. It is not restricted to one man and his abuse and intimidation towards a group of women in Hollywood. It is not simply a handful of MP’s making lewd comments to junior staff. It’s more than that. It’s your daughter, in her first job in a bar being sexualised by other colleagues. It’s your sister, wanting to work her way up to manager status but being patronised and discouraged at every step of the way. It’s your friend, longing for the courage to call out her older, more senior male colleagues she’s seen acting inappropriately.

Ignorance is NOT bliss. Silence is NOT golden. Far more women than anybody would care to admit, are facing a daily battle with workplace sexism; even from their very first job. It’s something we are subject to from day ONE. I wanted to encourage the women around me to share their stories. So, in honour of International Women’s Day 2018, I present to you the silence breakers 2.0. They are a group of 20 women sharing their experiences of sexism while working in their 20’s. These women aren’t famous. They’re not on the news. But they are women that you know. Whether they’re your friends or neighbours or somebody you passed in the street. Perhaps you work with them and have no clue how your behaviour has an impact. All women have a voice worth sharing. And these 20 have found theirs.

The theme of this IWD is #PressForProgress. And everybody is asking for and championing progress in different forms. All the progress we want is, respect. We are given very little hope for a different future, with alternative attitudes when even in our very first jobs, we are subject to sexism in all forms. Being young and female does not mean that all respect can be thrown out of the window. Please treat us how you’d treat anybody else, regardless of our age and gender. We’re not even asking for respect at this point. We’re demanding it.

You can start by listening…

At three separate workplaces, four DIFFERENT men have TAKEN my phone number and begun to send me text messages. Of these men, three sent inappropriate messages (not that any of it was appropriate, they'd helped themselves to my phone number), two of which were actually quite explicit. One of them even decided not to tell me who he was which was really creepy. Mostly, my number had been taken from other colleagues; the men either having contacted me using their phone or written my number down. One of the men went a step further and took it from the staff information data.” – Anonymous, Education.

When I worked at a fast food chain in my late teens, I was told that I couldn’t wear trousers and had to wear a skirt instead. When I asked why, they said it was because I was a woman. They also repeatedly told me to wear makeup and look pretty in case customers complained - I was pretty certain my unmade face was not the biggest problem the company had. They spoke to me about my appearance so much, even letting me know how much nicer I looked without glasses. Not sure I’ll do my job as well with my vision compromised though, sorry guys! Once a customer slapped my bum while I was trying to work and literally not one member of staff took it seriously. I hated it and I hated them for how they treated me.” – Anonymous, Food Retail.

“I’d worked in a pub for a matter of weeks when I first overheard the all-male management laughing but being deadly serious about having an all-female team of bartenders because they’d “sell so much more alcohol if a pretty face was part of the experience”. From then on, every shift I expected to hear some form of derogatory talk from management about the female staff. I heard conversations about our arses and our looks. What I found even more