How I Dealt With Discrimination: A Case Study
Kirsty, 25, was becoming depressed following a stream of sexist harassment from her male colleagues. Finally she took control of the situation though, and proved that their behaviour was unacceptable.
“I had always dreamed of a high flying city career so when I graduated I worked hard to get a job in a well respected financial institution. I knew I had the skills to do well and was really excited to get started.
“Obviously I was aware that it is a very male dominated industry but I had 2 brothers so was used to being one of the guys and it didn’t phase me in the slightest. I made sure that I dressed professionally and was ready to give them a run for their money.
Bad start“The other men in my group were hostile to me from the moment that I started. I found out later that I had taken a role that they thought was going to one of their friends so I think they resented me.
“To begin with they did not make any sexist comments but were just generally cold and unhelpful. I naively thought that I just had to prove myself and their attitudes towards me would turn around.”
Unfortunately, things soon went from bad to worse for Kirsty, and however hard she worked, she couldn’t break through.
Sexism“It started in a subtle way to begin with, with the odd comment here and there. I thought I was just being sensitive and put up with it. However, soon my male colleagues were making overtly sexual jokes around me and insinuating things that made me feel very uncomfortable.
“It was past the point of making a joke of it so I tried to talk to the ringleader and ask why he was being like that. He played innocent and apologised for any ‘misinterpretation’ but nothing changed. In fact, I think he just wound up his friends more and the harassment became more frequent.”
Taking action“Their behaviour was getting to me so much that I dreaded going into work and slipped into a spate of depression. I knew I couldn’t let them win so I finally plucked up the courage to do something about it. I started keeping notes of everything they said and did so that I had a good record.
“Then I made an appointment and approached my boss about it. I expected him to be unsympathetic but actually he took my complaint very seriously. The grievance was dealt with in-house and the men received disciplinary action and were moved to different departments.
“It felt great that somebody was on my side and that I had stood up for myself. Since then I have been treated as an equal by my new colleagues and am happy and thriving in my role. I would advise anyone who is being discriminated against to find the courage to speak up. It’s not your fault, it shouldn’t be tolerated and you can get back your life and your confidence back.