Blog: Your dick is not in my job description – on reflection

Sexual harassment

A year ago today Post published a blog I wrote called ‘Your dick is not in my job description’, which was about sexism and sexual harassment in the industry based on my own experiences.

When I penned the blog it was in part a way of getting my head around an incident that happened to me at a conference. I was also furious and concerned that this was happening to other people.

It was written in a hotel room, with an hour to go until my first industry conference dinner after the offending event, and as I wrote I was praying that nothing else would happen that evening. Nothing did.

It was nerve-wracking to put myself out there in a very public manner. I remember sharing the blog with my editor and then news editor at around 7pm, before bolting out the door to the dinner. It was an unusual time to file copy, but I needed to get it out of my system.

I had a gut feeling that the blog would reach a few people, and hoped it might help some, but once it was out there I was shocked by the wide-spread response it received. My inbox was aflutter with emails for days, weeks even, as was my social media feed.

A number of readers told me of their own recent and non-recent experiences, in confidence, sorry if that’s what you’re here for – you won’t see them splashed across a page.

In a way, it felt good to know that this wasn’t a ‘me’ problem; it was an ‘us’ problem. But it also hammered home that there were goings on that desperately needed fixing.

Others were compassionate and horrified, but said they were completely unaware that “this sort of thing” still goes on.

I heard from women of all ages, working across the insurance spectrum, from brokers, managing general agents, insurers, loss adjusters and more.

I heard from a number of men, who voiced their disgust – and frequently surprise – at what had transpired. Many pledged to speak up if they ever witnessed it.

This was something that ‘belonged’ in the 1980s, people said. An unpleasant throwback to times gone by. Except it wasn’t.

Writing that blog a year ago may have been a little brave and probably a little stupid, and perhaps I didn’t understand the full ramifications of it at the time.

I didn’t expect the sense of helplessness that followed when I wasn’t able to do enough to help others who didn’t have the same freedoms as I did, even to talk about it openly without fear of the repercussions.

It gnawed at me. In a way I felt guilty. Privately, my own mental health suffered a knock back. My colleagues were incredibly supportive and I was offered counselling; perhaps I should have accepted it.

A lot can change in a year, and I’ve accepted that one person can only do so much alone; a valuable lesson to learn.

Occasionally people still recognise me as the blog’s author and say thanks or that it opened their eyes, which continues to catch me off guard, but I no longer feel awkward or embarrassed or unworthy of their praise.

Meanwhile the insurance sexual harassment ‘hot potato’ has been well-baked into a stinking pie that the wider media seems to want a slice of.

Nobody is really shocked anymore.

For a number of months following another story - the Bloomberg Businessweek Lloyd’s “meat market” report - the insurance sector was splashed across the national media. From my understanding, Bloomberg wasn’t the only big outlet chasing the story, but it got there first.

For those who denied the problem exists, Lloyd’s recent culture survey must have made for queasy reading.

Some in the market seem to feel that the survey was not representative of real goings on, that nearly one in 10 had not, in fact, witnessed harassment.

But the survey was open to everyone, so if more people did not take the opportunity to fill it in, why not? Perhaps they were blasé about the issue; perhaps they didn’t care. Perhaps they felt they were too busy, or it was a waste of their valuable time.

Maybe Lloyd’s didn’t do a good enough job of pushing it out there – I can’t say for sure.

Whether it’s a throwaway “glazed ring” comment emailed for the whole office to see, or senior executives resigning over bizarre instances of harassment, recent revelations back up that it does happen.

Lloyd’s is taking steps to address its sexual harassment problem – because 500 witnesses demonstrated it was indeed a problem.

While I feel somewhat vindicated in others knowing that I’m not the only one, and more people have come out to make the existence of their story known, it’s certainly no victory.

Since writing the blog, I’ve got off relatively ‘scot-free’, aside from sometimes outlandish propositions (implied would-be threesome with a junior colleague of mine has to top the list) at late night post-conference events, or the occasional sick throwaway comment down the phone.

You learn to shake these things off and see the perpetrators for what they are: tiny. But as I’ve previously said, you shouldn’t have to.

This isn’t new to me anymore – instead I worry for other colleagues, who may well have had or may end up having their own experiences.

And I still worry for young workers in the industry. And for the industry itself, if it wants to keep these talented people on board.

When Lloyd’s CEO John Neal said he was “appalled” at Lloyd’s survey results, he seemed sincere. But we also need to remember that there is more to do and this isn’t just a Lloyd’s problem.

While I’m glad that we are making progress in recognising the sexism and sexual harassment issue and the industry appears to be taking steps to address it, I can only hope it delivers.

Perhaps I am dreaming, but I feel increasingly confident that it is trying.

And as Edith Piaf once sang: “Non, je ne regrette rien.”

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