With all the revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace pouring out at the moment, many women are looking back on experiences from their past and asking important questions about if they have been treated fairly. Worryingly, a lot of women report on the normalisation of inappropropriate behaviour in their workplace. If you are constantly told to turn a blind eye to the things going on around you, it can start to feel like an irritating yet harmless aspect of your work life.
It shouldn’t be this way.
When we allow sexual harassment and discrimination to become the norm, we open the door to unequal pay, destruction of the meritocracy and more sinister things like maternity discrimination. In the UK, maternity rights are heavily protected, but this doesn’t stop employers trying to work around the rules with creative interpretations. If you work in an environment where the women are always reminded of their gender and kept on the back foot when it comes to asking for more, you are going to struggle to get ahead.
So, what’s a woman to do?
From the moment you start your career, it’s important to demand nothing less than a non-toxic work environment. This can be difficult for young women to manage, and even more difficult to demand equality later in your career if you’ve always gone along with the status quo.
It starts with stamping out the small things that make the environment unfriendly towards women. This might include throwaway comments that are intended to demean women. Sure, you will have people telling you to lighten up and demanding that you learn to take a joke. If things have gone too far, don’t be afraid to take up your complaint with HR.
If your workplace seems too toxic to be redeemable, there’s no shame in looking elsewhere. You’re right, it shouldn’t be down to you to have to look elsewhere, particularly if you’ve carved out a place for you in this company. That said, if you aren’t going to be able to progress and you might even be held back by the toxicity, then it makes sense to move on. Plenty of companies out there are open about their commitment to creating a transparent and healthy work environment – don’t be afraid to demand a non-toxic work environment from your next employer. If you feel like you aren’t being given that opportunity and are potentially being discriminated against, it is always best to speak to your hr team first. If in this eventuality nothing changes, you can seek legal help in the form of employment lawyers to advise you on the best course of action.