By Mical Imbukwa
Being a lady in a male dominated work place, how will you handle sexual harassment in case it happens?
This question caught me off guard. I had never encountered it in any of my previous interviews. All they ever wanted to know was whether I can handle pressure, work in a team, meet deadlines, and whatnot. “How do you unwind?” was the only question that ever seemed to come close to showing concern about my well being. But of course this well being was still linked to my productivity at work.
So on the sexual harassment question, I took a deep breath and smiled! “This is a tough one!” I said and breathed some more. Then I asked myself the question aloud. “Oh…how will I deal with sexual harassment? Set boundaries!” I said with a spark in my eyes. The lady who asked the question looked at me and smiled? “Wow. Set boundaries? Kindly expound.
I sat straight in my seat, looked at the lady in the face sternly and breathed in. The stories I have heard of women who have been sexually harassed at work, flushed in my mind. After a few seconds I spoke up and said. “You know sometimes in life, things happen to us because of the fear that resides within us. We remain silent on issues because we are scared of the repercussions. If the harassment comes from the big boss, what next?
See, I believe in dialogues. I will sit him down and let it sink in his head that, sexual harassment is something I can’t take lightly. I will also try to make him understand that I respect our work relationship.
“What if he persists? What measures will you put in place to ensure that the harassment stops?”
Policies. Do policies work in these organizations? At least not the ones I have worked with in the past. So on this one, I just responded to get the lady off my radar. “I will ensure that operational measures are put in place. Measures that don’t look at positions but punish what is punishable. Whether it is the boss or a junior member of staff.”
Indeed with the response, I got her off my radar. On my way home, I thought of that lady who is unwillingly sleeping with her boss to protect her job. I thought of the one who is about to be fired because she refused to give in to the demands of her boss. I thought of the one who is slowly sinking into depression because she chose to battle the sexual harassment in silence. She fears that if she speaks up, no one will believe her or she will end up losing her job. I thought of the one who has been sexually harassed in all the places she has worked in to the point of normalizing it.
Have you been sexually harassed at the workplace before? How did you go about it?