There’s obviously been a lot in the UK press recently about sexism in the workplace. Back in 2007 I blogged about the difficulties in finding an agency where the culture fits you. To be honest, that post was more about the dinosaur agency cultures I’d encountered that thought the local lap dancing club was an excellent venue in which to entertain clients and that regular mealtimes were merely an impediment to alcohol consumption.
There’s probably an element of that kind of behaviour still lurking in almost every agency in the UK. The difference is that the older and more senior I got, the more I wasn’t afraid to speak up about it.
In an early role I’d fake headaches mid-way through an evening of client entertaining so the guys could wander off in the direction of a ‘gentleman’s club’ with the client in tow.
Fast-forward a few years and I don’t think I won myself any brownie points by refusing to be seated next to a notoriously sleazy client at an awards do (sample meeting banter: “who’d shag [his female account manager, sat in the same room] wearing that?”). But pointing out that that kind of behaviour was inappropriate felt pretty empowering, even if I was kicked off the agency guest list for the ‘do as a result.
I’m not suggesting that people aren’t entitled to their own opinions and can think what they like. They just need to be told that voicing some of those opinions in the workplace is no-longer appropriate. Even if they are clients. And they (and our agencies) won’t get the message if we just roll our eyes a lot.