Times they are a changing. What is considered sexual harassment today vs 20 years ago is rather remarkable. I watched Mad Men, end to end. It did a great job of showing how the women started out as secretaries, under the rule of a man, rewarded for total obedience but slowly began to move in to important roles of their own.
I worked for a year in the City of London, in a financial services firm. It was like Wolf of Wall Street. Yet I watched as some of the admin girls quite liked the flirting. And the men were encouraged to do it. Now 10 years later, we have thankfully progressed and this is no longer appropriate. But for those that worked in finance from the age of 20 and learned this behaviour was normal, now have a hard time understanding what is right and wrong. And some wish it could go back to the old times, where ‘women were less sensitive’.
I did not grow up in times of social media, so to meet a guy, they did have to approach you at the bar. There was no other way. Then calling you and texting you non stop was considered sweet. These days people have swiped and liked and chatted before they even reach a bar.
Recently my Dad and I had a chat about his dear friend, who sadly passed over Easter. He was a well respected doctor and in retirement had joined the CES as a volunteer. He was well liked and one day he was talking with another senior colleague and as she walked away he patted her bottom. A junior colleague saw this and reported him. Yet the senior colleague was not offended in the slightest, in fact she found the whole exchange pleasant.
The CES was forced to explore it. The man felt awful, this is not what he wanted to be known for. The girl was right – as that behaviour is not ideal in work, nor is the dominating nature of the act itself. Yet the ‘victim’ did not even identify as one.
I also have close friends, around the age of 45, that do not understand when I tell them their chat is inappropriate. It’s because it was appropriate 10 years ago. When they were dating the acts of bravado, and heavy drinking showcased their manliness. But now this is seen as disrespectful and by not listening to a woman’s wishes, it’s borderline mistreatment. But it’s easy to see why men find it hard to work out the playing field.
At Travltalk, as a female CEO, I also have to ensure I never intimidate or offend the members of my team. In some ways, being responsible for a team of men, means I have to ensure I also don’t compromise male pride and not act at work like I’m around the brunch table from Sex in the City. As we call men to account for their offensive chat, women also cannot band together and make jokes about a man’s size or package.
I would never do that. I do refer to Travltalk as my baby, but I am starting to move away fro that. It implies a maternal connection, when in fact it is time to hand Travltalk to the world. When Henry, my React Native developer released the Travltalk app through the iOS store, I made a joke that it felt like we were giving birth. I’m confident Henry found that amusing, but I wonder if the role was reversed, how the woman would feel. As the times change and equality becomes a norm in the workplace, I will also be ensuring as a female leader I keep up with what is fair for both sides and practice what I preach.