The Conscious Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

(ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education)

After graduating from Uni my first real job was at an agency in Adelaide. It was advertising, it was the 90s and I worked with a lot of people who still thought it was the 80s.

The parties were wild and the hangovers were long. In fact it was the only place I’ve worked in that to this very day insisted you get off your face on the Melbourne at Morphettville racecourse. It was mandatory as our MD made it a team building exercise.

However I do remember one of my teammates, a junior account exec like me defying him and not coming along one year. When everyone else arrived in their liquid luncheon best (with fascinator) she rocked up in jeans to catch up on filing and spring clean her office. And the MD was not going to argue as just 6 months earlier at an awards function he had bit her on the shoulder so hard it left teeth marks.

She didn’t make a complaint instead she made sure everyone in the agency knew about it. From then on, all the women started looking out for each other at these functions.

While I know plenty of women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, I know few who actually report it. That’s not easy to stomach.

It’s especially tough to be a witness to it. Most recently I bore witness to one of those incidents at an (again) awards ceremony. A young journalist who won was gifted, along with cheers from her workmates, a big fat kiss on the lips from a colleague twice her age. Looking clearly uncomfortable she was then left to sit next to him the whole night.

Ironically I was sitting next to a lawyer who witnessed it too and all we could do was ponder her rights and the career suicide in demonstrating them.

Of course I have my own stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. You know the ones. The leering eyes on your chest, the touch of the arse as you walk by or my personal favourite the stalker who sends porn mags.

Whenever I read one of those #everydaysexism tweets I often wonder if I can get any of my stories in to 140 characters.

Leered at by manager old enough to be my grandpa while explaining to him how to email. #everydaysexism

A hand across my arse disguised as ‘just brushing past me’. #everydaysexism

Another porn mag in the post, this time with suggestions of what he’d like to do to me. #everydaysexism

I only ever reported it once when I was a temp at a government department. I was subsequently moved to another part of the building. Lucky for me it was a promotion from Accounts to Communications.

When I read about the public servant who reported the behaviour of Jamie Briggs I often wonder if she also got lucky. If she got moved to another country that was better than where she was. With her name, photograph and age now in circulation – where ever she is, I don’t think it would be a fun place right now.

The kind of career sabotage that Jamie Briggs enacted by circulating her photograph is what silences women. It’s disgraceful and Peter Dutton’s response to a journalist calling it out is another pitiful example of what we’re up against.

Went out for work drinks & told I had piercing eyes, then he lunges at me. #everydaysexism