I recently caught up with some old mates from my corporate days. I havn’t seen one of them since I left that company some 20 years ago. We were all grad trainees for a multinational oil company and I was one of the first female managers to be hired in Australia.
It was at the time, the best option for me as I had decided not to continue with accounting (my original degree major) and after working for a FMCG company as a grad accountant, I decided to take the leap to get a broader range of experiences. and what experience it was! I really, at 21, had no idea what I wanted to do but knew accounting wasn’t it! This opportunity gave me broad training and exposure in a variety of fields to help me make up my mind.
So – the process began, training in retail, merchandising, property development, sales, management, stock control, branding, marketing…and on it went. It was good experience. I made some life long friends, earned a lot of money and gained great work skills. But it came at a cost. The oil industry, back then and I have no idea what its like now, was homophobic, misogynistic and sexist. It was tough seeing men being promoted above you after being told that as a woman I was seen as a weak link as I may “go and get myself pregnant” I was also told by senior male managers what a disgrace it was that women were now taking jobs from men who were trying to support their wives and children.
This was the big bad 80’s & 90’s after all. It did eventually end in tears with sexual harassment being a common occurrance and seeing one of my very good friends being belittled for being gay.
And what shocked me the most last week was that two of these men STILL thought like this. They were still belittling this friend for being gay. In 2012. They laughed about it. They are also in their mid 40’s.
I now work in the arts and cultural industries (that good money I earnt back then, helped me set up my business) I don’t even think twice about my gay colleagues, artists, mates being gay – they are who they are. I truly felt sick to the stomach when these guys were making jokes at the expenses of this old colleague for being gay.
Maybe I’m naive and live in a little bubble, but I cannot believe that these attitudes still exist. I had a few words and left quickly. There was no way I wanted to be even in the same room as them. I wonder if in another 20 years whether they will still have these thoughts?