So, I was at an industry function last night for work. It was part of a seminar series organised by one of the professional societies in my field.
Predictably, I was the only female there (aside from the seminar presenter’s wife, who has nothing to do with our field). Being a professional event, they had their in-house photographer there taking photos. He hung around me like a bad smell the entire time. I asked him repeatedly to leave me alone – not because he was being sleazy or anything, but because I hate having my photo taken. I have done since I was a kid, that’s not changed. I really, seriously, hate having my photo taken.
Yet this guy still wouldn’t leave me alone. After a while, he told me that the reason for it was because I was the only female there, and they wanted to get more females to join the society. Therefore, by taking photos of me, as the only female there, it might show others that the society and the industry as a whole aren’t sexist, because women attended their events…
Except, well…They are.
I have men sleazing on me fairly constantly at these meetings and at conferences. I bear the brunt of a lot of jokes in meetings where I am very clearly the only female scientist (there may be one or two other females there in an administrative capacity). I have a boss who treats me like his PA and tells me in his condescending little tone to “be a good little girl and go do the paperwork”. Yes, I’ve documented all of this. However due to the nature of my employment contract, I’m not delusional enough to think I would actually keep my job if I lodged a formal complaint about it. My boss’ attitude is hardly isolated, it’s fairly systemic in geology departments. It’s commonplace on mine sites.
Everyone wants to have a female employee, they’re promoting equality don’t you know? But then you get the job and get treated like the department secretary rather than the senior research fellow that you were employed as. I’ve had people tell me that I shouldn’t complain about sexism and misogyny at work, because at least I have a job. You know what? That doesn’t excuse this kind of behaviour.
I make no secret of the fact that this kind of thing occurs within academia and the mining industry. It’s stuff I just used to ignore because I never felt that it was a big deal, and everyone used to tell me that if I didn’t have a thick skin, then I’d never succeed. I believed that, and to a point I still do. You need to be able to take a joke when you’re stuck in remote locations in the field with other people. Yet there’s a line, and a not insignificant number of guys that I’ve worked with just go wandering right over it. There’s no doubt a lot of what happens is inadvertent, and they really don’t understand that what they’re saying is totally inappropriate. However then there’s guys like my boss, who know that what they’re saying and doing is totally unacceptable, but they do it anyway, because women should know their place.
Which brings me back to last night’s industry function. I politely asked the photographer to leave me alone because I was uncomfortable, my boss told me to be quiet and let him take the photos, because they wanted to emphasize that the industry was welcoming to women…
The whole incident just speaks for itself really, doesn’t it?