Why is workplace sexism still a thing?

17:58, May 12 2014

Recently I took two phone calls in one day from men who both said: ''What? The arts editor is a woman?''

One man repeated this phrase to someone in the background incredulously, as if I'd just told him that I was the reincarnation of Michael Jackon's glove.

He then said, rather abruptly: ''Where did you go to school?''

The other man said: ''Transfer me to your editor.''

I replied: ''She's a woman, too.''

He hung up.


It's 2014. I can't believe this still happens, but it does.

Once a man called asking me to write about a religious-themed performance he was holding in a church hall.

''It's far too high brow for you, you're a rock and/or pop person,'' he said in patronisingly posh BBC newsreader tones.

He added: ''Surely you should be at home with babies?''

''If it's any consolation, sir,'' I replied, through gritted teeth. ''I'm barefoot at work.''

I try to make light of it but it is upsetting, demeaning and depressing.

If I get a neanderthal on the phone who is shocked to be speaking to a woman, I have a coping strategy.

I usually reply: "One moment sir."

Then I leave them hanging with dead air for a minute or two before I reply: ''I just checked and yes my massive boobs are still there, thank you for asking.''

The spluttering sound they make in response is enjoyable, but my enjoyment is short-lived because I know these sexist hogs are out in my community somewhere.

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back; these men are bringing 1950 back.

It would be pleasant to think that after we conversed, these neanderthals went back under their rocks to clean their knuckles (they must get dirty from dragging on the ground so often).

But no, they simply mash the keypad with their underdeveloped frontal lobes, hitting redial until they get someone blessed with a penis.

I wrote something about these phone calls on Facebook and in response I got many personal messages from women around New Zealand, sharing their own experiences.

One woman wrote about trying to sell a classic car and having all prospective buyers assume it belonged to her husband or brother.

''Apparently girls don't own classics,'' she wrote.

Another woman, an experienced doctor, sent me a message: ''There was a patient recently who wanted a 'proper doctor' who was not a 'sheila'. He wasn't interested in the fact that I was the most senior doctor there.''

''You still can't talk about sexism, or pay disparity, openly,'' wrote another woman, ''or you're accused of being a filthy feminist which, you know, is bad because men in charge don't like it.''

A female friend who holds a senior position in a male-dominated industry wrote: ''If I had a dollar for every caller who asked to speak to my boss, I'd be able to afford a sex change.''

Have you experienced anything like this? Write a comment below or email vicki.anderson@press.co.nz

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