International Women’s Day 2019 – real stories collected from our training

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Friday 8 March 2019 is International Women’s Day. Over the years the day has increased in significance as reports of harassment against women and workplace inequality continue to headline the news. Over the past 12 months, VinciWorks has collected accounts of people who have experienced or been witness to harassment or workplace inequality. The stories have been shared via our anti-harassment training with the full consent of the author, with their real name replaced to protect them.

Sarah’s story

It started in the interview. He asked if I was married, then if I had a boyfriend, then he just kind of smiled. The day after I started, he came over to me and sat on my desk, asked me how things were going, and that if I needed anything I could always ask. He said, ‘I’ve got my eye on you.’

Then the text messages started. ‘How was your day? What are you doing at the weekend?’ At 10pm, 11pm, after midnight even. One night I just ignored him and came in early to avoid seeing him in the carpark. But he was there waiting for me at my desk. Eventually I asked someone why he was doing this. She just shrugged and warned me that if I wanted to stay, I better not ignore him.

It really wore me down, the constant messages. I became afraid of my phone in case he would send something, afraid to look and see who it was. I did talk to HR, but they told me to ignore it. I specifically remember they said to me: ‘so you want every man who winks at a women to be afraid of the lawyers?’ As if his behaviour is my fault. Like I’m the one who has to respect his right to treat me like less than a human. And it’s not like this is happening on the street from a random stranger, this is someone who can decide on my career advancement, my salary, who can fire me.

Jenny’s story

I worked in a bar when I was 18 and my 35-year-old boss continuously made passes at me, touched me inappropriately behind the bar and once came up behind me when I was a customer and not on shift to give me a neck and back massage – I literally couldn’t get away. I left and later learned he was subsequently fired for “gross misconduct”.

Vered’s story

I used to work in a nightclub; a promoter outside. If I would be promoting alone I would stay in sight of the bouncers just in case I needed them. One night at work a group of men on a stag night came over to me, asking for the deals in the club. I told them about our offers and started to hand out some wristbands for entry. There were about 10+ men when they all started to huddle around me, making it near on impossible for me to break away.

I told them all to move and then they all started glaring at me intensely, giving me inappropriate “compliments”, telling me that they’ll be looking forward to seeing me in the club. I eventually managed to get out of the man cage they’d made around me and ran straight to my manager. Her response was “this is what it’s like. Working in a nightclub, you should expect this kind of behaviour.” That’s what I was told. No one helped. No one supported me.

Yvonne’s story

I really enjoyed my previous job, working in the admin team for a Law Firm. I was known for having different religious beliefs to many in the Firm, but there was a great deal of respect shown between us all. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “there is always one…” Every so often, a lady would make unkind comments, in passing, about my faith, as her cousin was part of my religion. I would try to ignore this and try to put a ‘positive spin’ on whatever she said. One day though, she overstepped the mark and said something very insulting and extremely piercing. I explained that I was offended by what she said and was very close to speaking to HR/ her immediate manager – who turned out to be the Senior Partner of the Firm. The lady who sat opposite to her was a witness to the bullying/ harassment I was subjected to and was quick to defend me and my faith. The lady who was extremely unkind to me eventually stopped and did not say anything hurtful again. The point is though, that it should never ever happen in the first place. Respect is key. Accepting the similarities of others and respecting the differences – that is what’s key to good relationships in life.

Katia’s story

I was followed home after performing as a singer in a bar. I spoke politely with an older man who looked lonely for just a few minutes. But then I noticed when I got to a petrol station afterwards to fill up for the drive home that he was there as well and I thought that was odd. Then I got really scared when he started following me through 30 rural miles of highway. At one point he came up on the left beside me and tried to run my van off the road. He followed me all the way to my driveway where I ran into my house as fast as I could and locked the door behind me. My husband then got in the car and chased him but could not catch up to him. We let a local police officer that we knew personally know about the situation and never had a problem with this man again.

Areej’s story

I was a junior partner on a two-person counselling team where the senior partner acted and talked inappropriately to me and to other staff and clients. Rather than make a formal complaint, I left the company.

More striking stories on VinciWorks’ harassment course

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, MyStory: Harassment and Bullying at Work brings to life the real impact of bullying and harassment at work through hard-hitting stories, connects users to a global movement, and gives them a chance to have their story heard too. You can take try the course and submit your own story anonymously here.