Banter or Bullying? When “Joking” Becomes Sex Discrimination

Discrimination sign In my coaching work with professional women, I hear hair-raising tales about women who are subject to "banter" such as being rated on a scale of 1-10 for their looks, being called "stupid blondes" or "bimbo", having e-mails whiz around with pornographic images, seeing colleagues take clients to strip clubs, and even prostitutes – only to be told  when they complain – that they as women need to "lighten up". That's why this article by Rowan Pelling about recent sex discrimination cases in the City, in the Telegraph was so interesting. She writes "While the companies deny the allegations, it's tempting to view such stories as "Carry On Hedge Fund" – or ask why women in the City can't just develop the required rhino-hide and treat it all as a joke. But what would firms make of women who openly leered over men's crotches, told them they should be brickies, or brought Chippendales to corporate events?". While I agree with her point – the real story is in the comments section after the article, which is primarily made up of harsh vitriol about these "bitches in the office" from a variety of readers, not many of whom are sympathetic to the plights of women in the city who "just can't hack it". Its enough to make you feel we are entering 1010 not 2010. 

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  • Susan Heaton Wright

    I agree with you Suzanne that it is the readers’ comments that are horrifying. In most cases the commentators hide behind an assumed name; a bully that isn’t brave enough to own up.