Half of women in media experience some form of harassment

When I think about moments I’ve experienced harassment in the workplace most of it occurred in my 20s. As I grew older it seemed less so, or did my speaking up about it make it eventually feel like the norm?

So when I read in the Women in Media report, Mate Over Merit:

“Almost half of women working in the media (48%) have experienced intimidation, abuse or sexual harassment at work,” I had a sick sense of relief.

It wasn’t just me, it’s a lot of us.

Earlier releases of this report found extensive gender pay gaps and a culture of bullying in to silence.

“Bullying in the industry is rife. I’ve found male executives think their way is the only way and don’t live up to the values of an organisation they work for i.e. open honest accountable. They can take great pleasure in shouting you down in a meeting – particularly where most participants are male.”
Communications manager, all media, 21-25 years experience

While this report found men as the main perpetrators of harassment in the media, I think it should be noted that I have had experiences with female colleagues who have been bullies too.

Yet it was an experience with a female boss that struck me more than the bullying. After a male colleague shouted at me within inches of my face and proceeded to be rude to my junior staff I made a formal complaint.

“Director and senior exec of my office use physicality and intimidating and aggressive body language together with shouting and verbal harassment.”
Communications manager, print and online, 11-15 years experience

There was nothing unusual about the complaints procedure. It was lodged, acknowledged and investigated. From it a formal apology from the harasser was given.

“I think that sexism and gender inequality still plays a major role in the media industry. There should be harsher consequences for sexual harassment.”
In-house journalist, print and radio, 5-10 years experience

What was striking was that the apology, or version thereof….let me share a highlight.

“I wish I could say it would not happen again, but I cannot. I can say that I will usually recognise it after the fact and am quite prepared to apologise when it is warranted…..As you have approached this formally I feel that this formal response is the appropriate one.”

While the colleague added it was ok to be pulled up when he dishes out his temper – as you can see – he’s just not prepared to stop it. For management to accept this type of apology as an actual apology shocked me more than what was written.

Nowhere did my female boss nor my harasser acknowledge this was inappropriate or something that should be resolved to the point where it won’t happen again.

“I think with deadlines and fast-paced news environments there is a bit of an expectation that reporters have to deal with aggressive and abusive behaviour from editors/management. Yelling at people on deadline and tearing up stories deemed unworthy in front of journalists’ faces is seen a bit more culturally normal. It’s the same in politics. It’s almost like the expectation is that being spoken to poorly at times of high intensity is part of the job.”
Communications Manager, Television and Radio, 5-10 years experience

 I have always been of the firm belief that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Women’s harassment in the workplace is not new, and generations of women have experienced it. While we can argue til we are blue in the face that perpetrators need to be responsible for their actions, when someone in a position of power negates their responsibility to do something then in my eyes they are just as bad.