Now that the Prime Minister’s speech has put sexism and misogyny, no matter how you define it, into the forefront of the national debate, here are my two questions:

Hands up all the women who have experienced sexism in the workplace from male colleagues?

And now, hands up, everyone who has experienced collegiality, support and friendship from male colleagues in the workplace?

My guess is that the numbers would be roughly equal.

I think most women, certainly of my age and in my line of media work, have their fair share of horror stories from the trenches of the gender wars, and it has been sobering to read Tracey Spicer’s account of this.

Men who are patronising, fail to believe a “girl” can do the job, rely on “fuckability” as a gauge of employability or are just dismissive as a perverse way of self-aggrandisement.

I’ve worked with those men. But I think most of us have also experienced the flip side of the equation.

Men who hire, or perhaps even fire, you on the basis of your qualifications or the tenor of the job you have done.

Men who ask your professional opinion.

Men who may take you to task for a sloppy job but in exactly the same manner they would berate the “boys”.

Men who go the extra mile to lure you back into flexible work after you’ve had a baby, offer you a hug when your Mum gets ill, who keep in touch when your career paths diverge so you can catch up for a drink or a meal.

Men who offer their friendship and collegiality easily.

Men who never single you out as the only woman at a meeting and ask for a cup of tea.

Men who never look you in the breast rather than the face.

And what about your female co-workers? Can you put your hand on your heart and say you have never been demeaned by a woman you worked with?

The kind of woman who undermines you with the boss, criticises your appearance, comments negatively on any perceived weight gain and tries her hardest to keep you in your place.

Sometimes she may be a woman who has already seized her spot near the top of the hierarchy and doesn’t want another woman in sight.  We used to call them Queen Bees.

Or maybe she’s not in charge, but seems dead set on making sure you never are.

I’ve had that kind of colleague too.

Discrimination in the work place or anywhere else is unfair, unwarranted and unacceptable, whether it’s sexism, racism, ageism, weightism or xenophobia.

But they shouldn’t blind us to the presence of the good will that also exists in most of our workplaces and most of our lives.




Dear Mr. Sexist

Have You Ever Been Sexually Harassed?

MI·SOG·Y·NY. Hijacked by Pedants

*Jebby Phillips is an editor and executive producer at ABC TV news. She has worked as producer for Mornings with Kerri-Anne and Today for the Nine Network and on Today Tonight for the Seven Network. Jebby has also worked as a producer on many TV shows both here, in the US and the UK including Good Morning America and London Weekend Television. She is also has extensive experience as an on-air reporter and presenter.


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  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Lovely piece, Jebby. I miss working with you! Yes, there are plenty of good fellas, as well as the sexists/misogynists. Neil Miller, John White and Colin Tyrus in Melbourne; Angelos Frangopoulos, John and Peter Brennan, Greg Byrnes, JC, David Penberthy and Garry Linnell in Sydney; and the guys who gave me my start at Radio 4BH in Brisbane. Still some sexism, however, in pockets of the industry.

  • Reply October 26, 2012

    Wendy Harmer

    Thanks Jebby. I’d like to pay tribute here to a bloke named Don Baker ( not Draper!) who was my COS at the HeraldSun, many moons ago. He was an inspiration – he listened, was challenging and gave me time to follow my instincts. I, in turn, would have walked over broken glass for him.
    Two other male bosses I utterly admire: Ted Robinson, the legendary comedy producer who was thr brains of The Big Gig and Brad March, my producer on 2DayFM.

    Both men pushed and encouraged and disagreed in equal measure.

    I owe these “good guys” in media a lot, I am thankful to have worked for them and I know that there are so many men out there who are the same.

    I also thank Tracey Spicer for lifting the lid on what can be a very grubby industry and hope younger women now have a compass for what is to be expected from a good and decent boss… in any industry, male or female.

    And, more than that, I hope the misogynists are a dying breed.

  • Reply October 26, 2012

    Jane Waterhouse

    I have experienced the whole spectrum of male & female colleagues in my thirty years in the workplace. Although I have been on the receiving end of sexism and misogyny, I have to say, without doubt, the majority of men I have worked with, and still work with today, have been fabulous and supported my choices, my opinion, my team, my vision, my innovations and I have shared some great laughs and even a few tears along the way. Scott Penn, Nick Chan, Ryan d’Almeida, Nick Morgan, David Morris, George Betsis are standouts.. Thanks Jebby.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Excellent article! Thank you, we were just talking about that on the deck over drinks last week. Also, some great guys out there, my husband is one of them. My very first ‘real’ boss was also wonderful, taught me so much, never treated me any differently from the guys in the office and even booted a client once because he was rude & didn’t want to deal with a ‘young girl’. (44 now, so love to remember those days LOL!). There are some awesome Men out there, shame they don’t get the attention they deserve!

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    At last! A voice of reason in this whole ugly debate. If onlythere were more like you Jebby willing to talk reason rather than jumping on a topical bandwagon.

    • Reply October 26, 2012


      Adam, I don’t see that this contradicts those who have pointed out the problem of misogyny.

      I’m certain that you’re not a misogynist. Neither am I. We’re both good guys, I’m sure. Indeed, the vast majority of men are either good guys or neutral (assuming that’s a possible third option).

      The trouble is, it only takes a small proportion of men to be misogynists to cause a huge amount of grief. Moreover, if you’re a high-profile, opinionated, intelligent woman, then they seek you out to be a target. So you are very likely to disproportionately see misogyny.

      You probably know that it’s only a very small proportion of people who do this. But it only takes a very small proportion to make your life hell. And the higher profile you are, the smarter you are, the stronger your opinions, the bigger the target that’s on your back.

      So while I don’t think you personally meant to say this, I’d point out to anyone else reading that Jebby’s piece here is not, as good as it is, the lone voice of reason. Rather, it’s filling in more of the picture.

      • Reply October 27, 2012

        Wendy Harmer

        Very well said indeed… thank you for this comment,

  • Reply October 26, 2012

    Steve MacNeil

    It was always thus Jebby. In the terms of a television crime series, “it’s a jungle out there”.
    I like Tracey’s approach.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Yes, I have a fantastic boss who is incredibly supportive, kind and great to work with, who has gone out of his way so I can have really working flexible working arrangements and learn on the job all the time. Also in my previous job, my manager was a man and he was absolutely fantastic. Countless other men I’ve worked with have also been brilliant, respectful and fun colleagues. Have also mostly worked with great women too. I have occasionally come across men who were patronising, sexist and a few creepy inappropriate ones, or a few women who were unfriendly and demeaning of other women, but thankfully, these people were in the minority.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Good balanced viewpoint – and one that needed to be said. While I agree wholeheartedly with the PM’s comments on sexism in parliament, I have found over a 30 year career there are many sensitive and thoughtful men in the workforce, who will encourage and support women workers.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Great piece Jebby. I have seen some appalling behavior over the years by both men and women. I am now working for a man who has supported me after having children, given me flexible working hours, supported me through health issues and he is just a really nice bloke that I enjoy being around. I am more motivated to work productively for him as it comes back tenfold. Keen to see some of your other writing if you have other pieces out there.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    Hands up all the males who have experienced sexism in the workplace from female colleagues.
    Now, hands up all the males who have experienced collegiality and support from their female colleagues.
    My guess is, that this number would NOT be about the same, and I think this is the point of the discussion the country is having; and a large part of the reason why many in the Mainstream media reported Prime Minister Gillard’s speech so dismissively.
    I agree that there are women who demean other female colleagues in a sexist way, and one of the most insidious can be by deferring to male colleagues in decision making in preference to more experienced female colleagues. Another sexist role some women play is to enable male work colleagues to continue making sexist remarks unchecked. You only need to watch the breakfast / morning shows on TV or listen to Jackie O to notice countless examples of this.
    So yes, there are good guys in the workplace, but not nearly enough to think that the “gender wars” are by any means over.

  • Reply October 26, 2012

    Benison O'Reilly

    Agree wholeheartedly. Have known some wonderful guys in the workplace who have totally respected my opinions – even sought them out. Some I still regard as friends. Perhaps the dickheads are concentrated in particular industries, including television.Mia Freedman also copped a bashing at Channel 9.

  • Reply October 26, 2012


    I find woman are harder to work with then men, at least you know exactly where you stand with men,,,,, WOMAN can be very nasty, catty, and bitchy,,,,, I would rather work with 100 men over one woman any day.

  • Reply October 27, 2012


    Appreciate the need for balance (and that berating men is unhelpful), however I can’t quite agree. The best I can say is that some of them are fair and a pleasure to work with. But the good guys are a long way from counteracting the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism I’ve seen over 38 years of working. Even many of the ‘better’ ones don’t notice sexism, deny it when it is pointed out, and thus won’t stand up against it at times when that might help. So even if there are 50% nice guys, that doesn’t redress imbalance.

  • Reply October 27, 2012


    Agree with Genevieve. I think we’ve a way to go. I’m wondering about all this rot coming out of the US Republican Party. Have we made any progress at all??? Never forget that women are the underdogs and when push comes to shove men have the upperhand.

  • Reply October 27, 2012

    Andrew Whalan

    Beautiful article. Maybe it’s just me but I found it easier to treat everyone without rancour and discrimination. Hate and anger is such hard work and so boring and tiring. Besides the harder part is to find out how you can treat others better by changing yourself (Nope not there yet ;-))

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Tony W

    “the good guys are a long way from counteracting the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism I’ve seen over 38 years of working.”

    I agree, however in my experience the good guys are generally lower in the food chain, and not being members of the boys club, are often just as disempowered as women. Sexism at its worst is practiced by male bosses, as a means of accruing power to themselves. They operate locally through the boys club, by selecting their own type for promotion, and more widely through the “old boy network”. We’ve all seen managers brought in from outside, when there are much better qualified men and women locally. Invariably there’s a personal connection of some kind – from another department, or a previous workplace, or an associated business. They even have all-male clubs for these guys – legend has it the Melbourne Club used to run the country.

    That’s how patriarchy works, and it will be a long time before these power structures can be emasculated. However there’s a lot that can be done in the workplace to deprive them of their essential nourishment – namely the practice of overt sexism.

    Unfortunately it requires collective action, and unionism is very much out of fashion nowadays. We’ve all bought into the notion that we can “make it on our own” if we’re good enough. That’s crap, as many women here would have discovered. With the forces of patriarchy aligned against them, very few women will ever “make it on their own”, and those that do will often pay a heavy price.

    Back in the ’80s a few of us good guys and women got together, in a large public sector organization, and launched a campaign against sexual harassment. We got tremendous support from national management, after the union escalated the matter, and a program to raise awareness of the issue was embarked upon. It came as a great surprise to many bosses that sexual harrassment can be verbal, not just physical. That made a big difference – women suddenly felt more empowered, and blokes were forced to clean up their act.

    To me that’s the best way to address sexism in the workplace – deprive these blokes of their modus operandi, and slowly but surely the culture will change. Essentially you nip it in the bud – stamp out sexism in the ranks, and the boys club will be deprived of recruits.

    As Jebby says, the practice of sexual discrimination in the workplace “shouldn’t blind us to the presence of the good will that also exists in most of our workplaces.” All you need to do is get organized and exert that good will collectively. You may be surprised at the support you get from upper management – don’t forget, sexual discrimination is illegal, and no company wants to be sued.

    Before any of this can happen though, we need to rid ourselves of this partisan mindset, which has outlived its usefulness now. The message I take from Jebby’s piece is that this is a workplace discrimination problem, not a gender issue. As noted by Jebby and others here, it’s practiced by women too.

    The only message I can add is that while we all have to fight our own battles in the workplace, we don’t have to fight them alone.

    • Reply October 30, 2012


      Any complaint opens up a broad funnel for lots of nonsense to pour in. Hooray your a self professed good guy Tony. Bollocks and gibberish. MOst worksites with majority males are full of gibes and insults, none of it anything other than the way we communicate to each other and without malice. If people don’t get that it is usually because they bring there own baggage which makes them sensitive to most things.
      What is most obvious is that dialogue is tempered for women entrants in case they don’t get it at first. If they never do, it becomes a complete cultural clash. Who is wrong then? Idiots like Tony – that’s who.

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    Yes there are good guys. And you know what they say, bad things happen when good people do nothing.

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    And to Joanne above who doesn’t like to work with women. That might just say something about you. Or the industry you choose to work in. Iv’e always worked in professions where women are the majority and they are wonderful, supportive environments.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Paula Hanson

    Truth be told, my male bosses all fall into the first category throughout the course of my career. I have experienced congenial relationships with men in the work force but does this mean that they are non-sexist, non-misogynistic? When language that undermines women is part of the every day, when joke telling is little more than an assault on the female sex then even the ‘good guys’ are cast in a shadow.

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    A good read & thanks.
    IMO women can be harder & nastier on each other than any man has/can be. Sometimes the ‘sisterhood’ is simply a mirage.
    For me, the 50-50 is just as many women as men have been tough & dished out unfair treatment.
    I think the important thing is to be treated as a ‘person’.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Tina B

    Great article Jebby and some interesting replies. I’ve personally experienced it all – luckily the majority of my work years have been spent surrounded by men and women with ‘equal’ attitudes to each other in the workplace.Although sexism was rife in my early years of television production, I still regard those years (’70s) as the best of my working life. Even later on while working in Real Estate, it was not only sexism but AGE’ism!
    It is sad though when you come up against a female boss who has all the power and misinterprets a person’s energy and enthusiasm to the point where she feels threatened… then gets someone else to fire you.
    As many of the people who’ve posted comments have said in expressing their opinions, its such a broad and complex subject – but gee it gives me the shits when it happens!

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    I’ve been pretty lucky and had mostly great male bosses, when I’ve had them. The ones who weren’t were bastards all over, not necessarily in any particularly sexist or misogynistic manner.

    Honestly, I will never forget the month I spent working at an electrical company (with 90% men) after spending two years working in a government department (with 90% women). It was a real breath of fresh air and exactly what I needed at the time – no back stabbing, no bitchiness, just plain speaking and a good laugh at the end of the day. I was everyone’s favourite when I brought in homemade biscuits, and I’ve never left a workplace more reluctantly. Ah, the life of a temp!

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    shazza- I mainly work with woman, due to the fact that I manage a disability service and majority of people who work in that field are woman,,,,,, because yes we are very caring and giving, but on the flip side of that,, I also find that a handful of woman have the martyr syndrome, and think that the world will fall apart without them, and only they can do it right,,,,, men on the other hand just get in and do whatever needs to be done with a good sense of humor. I find myself very flexible and can handle working with anyone,,,, and am not that precious.
    I was watching a show on the television the other day, and talk about woman having double standards,,,, a male employee went into the toilet, and his female boss followed him into the toilet to have a conversation with him while he was urinating, now if that happened to a woman ” there would be a bloody out cry and a law suite to follow” the respect we want for ourselves is the respect we should show towards men as well,,,,,,,, I think what was portrayed on the show is seen as funny,,,,, but it just shows woman as having double standards, and that we really dont know what we want…….

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    I often wonder does one have to earn repect or is one entitled to repect as a human being~ I probably opt for the later as it is kinder to me in my slack and busy periods~ and others who do not have a microphone or op-ed piece in papers….

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    I meant “latter” but as a post-menopausal stroppy woman who is not afraid of controversy~ I have had a few men who have stuck up for me and mine~ and I honour them in feast frenzy times..which is almost always~ now

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Sue Cram

    yes, there are two who stand out after a 30 year career in the media. One is Greg Haddrick, an executive producer with Screentime, producers of the Underbelly series and the other is Alan Hardy, producer of so many television drama series. Both were a delight to work for and with and not a trace of sexism or misogyny in either of them. Scratching the head to add to the list though, except for Dvid Kirkpatrick, editor of the Northern Star newspaper, Lismore NSW. Take a bow gentlemen.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    jonah stiffhausen

    No, no, no. All men are guilty of something or other, obviously. God, give me strength! Natter, natter, natter. It was ever thus.
    Haven’t you people got sons? Next step; picture the future … ah, it doesn’t matter.

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    Although I have had the odd bad male boss, and always had fantastic female bosses, it has always been women who made my life miserable. Thankfully my current male boss is a delight to work for.

  • Reply October 30, 2012


    Finally a little more of a balanced and respectful piece on a topic which, for me, is only showing more of the worst of people then the best. I’m not saying people should only say nice things (or not ‘say/do nothing’ at all) but with all the negativity being conjured up from events up to decades old, it cant be good for our souls and is driving the wedge deeper. Yes there are good people and bad people and some people who haven’t learnt yet and regrettably some that never will. The best thing one can do is point it out when it happens, educate or condemn it at the time and put standards in place for all us us to reach for. And end this negative debate through all persons seeking change on a personal level, leading by example, respectfully. Then collectively we can eliminate this debate by education and self control. Unfortunately this seems impossible in politics but the majority of us are not in that game so lets not use politicians as examples but ourselves. Females and males and all those in between UN ITE!

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Tony W

    “with all the negativity being conjured up from events up to decades old, it cant be good for our souls”

    Here’s a bit of negativity conjured up from yesterday:

    “Commissioner Broderick’s office yesterday released its latest findings: one in four women at work are still being leered at, still being asked intrusive questions about their appearance, still receiving sexually explicit emails or texts, and are on the receiving end of unwanted sexually suggestive comments.”

    Is that recent enough for you dickbrain? Is that better for your soul?

    Yes, people are bringing up stuff from decades ago because it’s RELEVANT TODAY. As opposed to the nauseating platitudes dripping from your own mealy mouth.

  • Reply November 1, 2012


    Tony W- I was in two minds as to if I would even waste my time commenting on your comment,,,,,,But ,,,, we all know that it is still happening today, pretty smart for the the bunch of DICK BRAINS (as you so politely put it) That we are. What we need to do is start educating our sons and daughters in regard to respecting the opposite sex and themselves and start treating people the way we would like to be treated to ourselves. This concept I know is hard for some, but if the majority of educated free thinking people out there did just this small thing ,,,, huge change would take place. Change has to start with each and every one of us. SO TONY,,,, THERE.S JUST SOME MORE NAUSEATING PLATITUDES FOR YOU,,,,,,SPOKEN BY A TRUE BLUE DICK BRAIN,,,,,,,

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    Tony W

    “Change has to start with each and every one of us.”

    No Joanne, change requires leadership. Leadership of the kind our PM has displayed on this issue, and of the kind Commissioner Broderick describes: “A combined effort with business groups and unions is on track to improve matters in the workplace, while education needs to be ramped up so that boys and girls fully understand gender equality.”

    As for my earlier comments – my wife was sexually harassed during the ’80s and many of us fought back successfully in the workplace, so I resent the suggestion that older people commenting here are simply “conjuring up negativity from decades ago” and “driving the wedge deeper.”

    I’m sorry these uncomfortable realities aren’t “good for our souls”, but if you haven’t the stomach for this fight yourselves, then don’t stand in the way of those who have. This problem requires concerted action – kumbaya won’t cut it in the workplace.

    As for my language – under the circumstances I believe it was restrained.

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