So, that escalated quickly. One tweet and one Facebook post were enough to flood my mentions and DMs with a douchebro tsunami.

Say what now, JB?

A week ago I agreed to write a quick column riffing on Which-50’s crazy-brave experiment over the last month to remove all the snags from the barbie. I figured it’d be an easy piece to do. I’d ask a couple of women I knew in law and publishing and government work to tell me a few stories about terrible blokes cutting them off, stealing their work, doing that thing that men do so well — looking after themselves and their mates.

I had a friend called Mary, now a writer, who used to be an actual rocket scientist, but she was forced out of her job as defence contractor when she was seven months pregnant. Another woman, a Facebook friend, was in desperate need of flexible work hours to look after her family. She was constantly knocked back by her male boss, while a male colleague was given all the freedom he needed — because, well, this dude really needed a daily surf before he could even think about coming to work.

I figured to grab a few stories like that, a little copy and paste, send the invoice, and you’re off to the races.

So I throw out my little tweet and my Facebook post. And, like the champion angler I am, I get bites from the get-go.

A woman called Zoë told me she was ordered to skip group meetings, avoid new initiatives, and turn down speaking invitations because she “wasn’t at her desk enough”. Not a problem for her footloose sausage bros.

Carrie H insisted that her field, science, was “the worst”. Carrie writes that it’s hard to be heard, let alone taken seriously, as a woman in science. And if you are heard you quickly get labeled: pushy, a bitch, scary, not liked, a dyke. “Then there’s the total dominance of strategic resources by men,” she said. “The appointment to ‘gatekeeper’ positions where they get to channel money and opportunities to their own research.”

“I’m old enough not to give a rat’s anymore, but when I see them doing it to younger women it drives me nuts.”

Carrie and Zoë are white.

Sally Piracha is not, so she got a double dose. She told me in a Facebook message that about three years ago she was elected to the board of a not-for-profit with a very progressive mission — but a not-so-progressive culture, as it happened.

“Rarely could I get a word in — I was spoken over, interrupted, dismissed, ignored, contradicted and undermined. Some of the older councillors adopted a very ‘tolerant’ (condescending) attitude, while others were more openly hostile. There were even outsiders, people who were not part of the council, or who were former members, invited to sit in on meetings and they were given more respect than I was. So I quit. I stood no chance of influencing the project, and I had nothing to gain by remaining a member of this white, male club.”

Sally was happy to put her name to the story, although she didn’t want to call out the organisation because she still believes in the cause and did not wish to do it harm. Van Badham, a playwright and journalist with an amazing story of intellectual property theft (See below), was the same. She still believes in the mission and didn’t want to harm the organisation she was talking about by naming them. She is a public figure, however, and one who is famously up for a fight. So, like Sally, she could say her name.

Most of the women who reached out could not do so publicly. They could only speak on the condition of anonymity because to speak publicly would end their careers.

Some who got in touch just needed to unload. Their stories are not published here. I hope that in future, life treats them better than the men they’ve encountered.

So read on, if you dare.

I was kind of beat down by the time I’d read and edited all of these anecdotes and the many more which, for a whole bunch of reasons, aren’t published here.

Which-50 did a brave thing this month, cutting men out of the action. As you’ll see below, it’s not something we’re used to dealing with. We do love to dish it up, but taking our turn? Not so much.

[note for readers coming to this from Facebook on mobile devices: to read the stories below you’ll have to open the article in a web browser.]

Jamie: I’m a lawyer. The legal fraternity is rife with marginalisation and diminution of women from senior counsel referring to senior partners as “decent girls” to outright sexual harassment. The worst story I could tell involves a principal of a large firm who was a witness in a case I was working on. Without any solicitation, he asked whether I’d like to share a hotel room with him for the weekend. I didn’t even address that question and proceeded to talk about the case. Two weeks after the incident my client contacted me. They were “concerned” because this guy wasn’t “confident” of my abilities.

Portia: I’m a barrister specialising in criminal law and related matters. Before coming to the Bar I had done three and a half years of daily court advocacy of the same types of matters. I have a colleague who was called to the Bar on exactly the same day as I. His background is civil and commercial work and before coming to the Bar he had appeared in court once, and only once. My clerk put us both forward for the same matter — a family violence case.  My fee to appear was approximately 75 per cent of his.  The explanation I was given was simply that he was “more marketable”.  In law, we often call this the “magical penis factor”!

Alex: I worked for a couple of male solicitors for a while. They had other female employees who had been there for decades but clearly had never requested a sanitary disposal device in the shared toilet. When I raised it I got the impression that menstruating women were problematic. I used to have to wait until the local RSL club opened up at 10am for any toilet break. Suffice to say I was not so disappointed when the managing partner (for whom I was PA/front office receptionist/secretary/agent conveyancer at property settlements etc.) didn’t “hold the job” for me when I took five weeks off to travel overseas.

Liz: I work in events management. We had a restructure and I was told, “We want you more involved”. That simply translated as, “You make all bookings, meal arrangements, staff rosters, be the first up at the venue, and the last to walk around and while some bloke wanders in and says ‘I am the boss’”. This male colleague swans in at first meeting with 96 stakeholders and changes all the rosters across a bunch of different venues. I end up sorting out transport and catering. He stuffed up and starts swearing and yelling at me.

I got through on about five hours sleep a night while he took a day off for personal time.

I tried to arrange a meeting as I felt salary review needed to occur. The man in charge says, “We don’t ask for a raise,” and “Don’t nag”.

I was so angry. This was on International Women’s Day, and I just thought all those years of trying to effect change for those coming behind? Pfft, it’s too tiring and I am worn down by unequal treatment, unequal salary, and knowing this is it. I have to just hang on for retirement, a handmaiden to a bloke who has same job title but just walks in for the glory bits.

Emma: I had a government job. When a woman in another, higher-paying position left, my boss said I’d move into that role. It was more work and more pressure. I’d acted in the role before. But he said was going to swap the salaries of my old job and this new one around, and employ a man in my previous position because “there’s too much oestrogen in this office”. And he did! He hired an alcoholic who would go off to a meeting room to “transcribe an interview” for three hours at a time. And I worked my arse off for no extra pay. It took a couple of years, but by then I had enough experience to leave for a $20K pay rise. And yes, my boss would come in to work around 10am, read three different newspapers and boy was he good at solitaire on the computer! He was never mastered the quick Alt +Tab to get out of the screen when you walked into his office though.

Tara: I was told to “ask my husband” every time I was offered extra duties or a new teaching contract. I was passed over after spending all year rewriting a work program for a man who had nothing to do with the change-over. (He wasn’t told to ask his wife if he could take the job.) I had a job I was doing very well for two years yanked out from under me because the business was making changes that involved an online platform and I clearly “could not grasp the concept”. The final straw was being passed over for a promotion in a humanities subject area I was currently teaching to have that position go to a male staffer who was in the economics department.

Jennie: I work in advanced driver training: that is, teaching men to be better drivers. How much time do you have?

Caitlin: It was just a few years ago. I was working for National Parks and Wildlife in WA.  I was an interpretive ranger for a World Heritage Area program under the supervision of a well-paid male staff member who’d been with the department for decades. Despite his seniority, he had no actual duties or programs or projects under his direction. Nor did he have any technical skills or scientific qualifications or experience.  He was paid to “supervise” me. I was his only charge. Yes, his entire enormous salary was devoted to supervising me and me alone, as I worked on the actual duties of my role. Supervising me took all kinds of interesting forms — from bizarre instant interrogations, to deep and meaningful conversations about his and my personal lives and seemingly random outings to various high-use nature sites. Eventually, I had enough and requested a transfer to another office. This was denied. So, I applied for and won an advertised position at another office at a slightly higher grade and pay but within the same nature interpretation project. Hurray! I thought…

I was finishing up my duties when our office was destroyed by a flood. When I started at my new office I was horrified to find this chump had been put in charge of me again; despite the Department knowing that escaping him was my sole reason for requesting a transfer, and applying on the open market for a highly competitive position elsewhere.

I resigned, ending my career in a field of work I absolutely loved. Perhaps you might think it was just two people not suited to working with each other? Then I should mention that prior to me being assigned to him as his sole responsibility. seven other women who had also been assigned to him in as many years had left abruptly, quit, transferred and/or lodged complaints.

Linda: I got a job at a company as an unpaid internship. Male interns got paid, female interns didn’t. I was told several times that the company shouldn’t have to pay for what I do — corporate writing. A male manager repeatedly harassed another female staff member and was reprimanded and told not to speak to her again. He started to harass me. I was told that he doesn’t know he’s doing it and that it’s just his nature so I should knuckle under. I still get paid for less than a quarter of the work I do.

Riley: I work in media. I had a sub-editor — a bloke who had it in for me. I later found out from a colleague that his attitude was based on his unrequited feelings for me.

He’d dash into the editor’s office at the first sight of a typo or misspelling to rat on me. It was an almost daily occurrence, to the point I was terrified of filing a story, lest there be something for him to pounce on.

One weekend I got phone call from the Features Editor: “The sub says you’ve repeated last week’s story for tomorrow’s edition.” I’m saying, “no, no, it’s the same topic, but this story is different.” Features says, “no, the sub has printed both stories out and they’re the same.” I feel sick, genuinely nauseated — but confused, I’m sure it’s not the same story. Turns out it was just as I said — they were different stories, on a similar topic. But this was confirmed after hours of making me doubt myself and feeling sick — and getting the Features Editor into the office. (I think the sub was hoping it’d be me who’d go in on a Sunday night.)

So, you reckon that whole palaver would have happened if my name was Trevor or Taylor?

Methinks not. Oh! And not even an apology.

Carol: Some years ago my boss left so I was “acting” in his role for a few months and eventually applied when it was advertised. I didn’t get it and was told the bloke being appointed would require my training assistance because he had no experience in the area but had just “performed better in the interview”.

When he started I showed him the ropes while carrying his workload as well as my own, even after he said I wouldn’t be getting a pay rise or a bonus that year because he’d checked the records and noted I was already earning almost as much as him.

Three months later he left, saying the job was too hard. So I was asked to “act” in the role again, which I did. Five months later I asked if I’d be permanently appointed, given I was performing well. I was told no because “you’re too young and we need a man with more life experience”. That was the point at which I transferred out of there. I’ve had dozens of these experiences. I chose this one because it was just four years into my adult working life and it was the first time I realised that my gender mattered.

Gina: Back when I was a Linux sysadmin at uni I had a computer science student come in with account problems. I asked him about his account ID. Got a look from head to toe and was asked if he shouldn’t ask the other (male) employee, who by the way had no idea about that stuff. Even further back on the first day of a computer science course in high school, a male student saw me waiting in front of the classroom, walked up to me and with a shit-eating grin asked “Why are you here?”

The cuts start early.

Teresa: I worked in theatre and film for many years and some of my early work was in stand up. I’d become quite well known through my work on a Sydney cabaret which I also wrote and produced. Even though I packed rooms I was never given top billing. It was always implied that sex from me would “solve” that problem, and the more sex I offered the more work I’d get.

Men have put their names to my written work, especially if it was a “collaboration”, registering it before I even knew they intended to, and leaving me with no way of challenging the fact. A demented US film producer/director once “interviewed” me for a part and kept yelling, “Show me ya tits!” It degenerated into farce. I become more “British” the more I’m threatened, (I went to an English Public School).

“Ya do British?” he yells. “Great! Great! OK, so show me ya tits, Limey!”

There are so many incidents of being groped, fondled, asked for sex — even from well-known and respected playwrights with wives and families — but perhaps the worst was working with “colleagues” at the Bondi Pav. On returning to the dressing room after opening night, my rather large makeup mirror was covered in sexual slurs, writ large in red lipstick. The utter betrayal decimated me, and I wept for days. Was it because my reviews outshone those of my male lead and mostly male support cast? Women simply live in a world where this is a continuum, as I’m sure you’ll find.

Noni: In my last job I had a male boss, and I also had a male colleague who was at the same level as me (in pay and responsibility on paper). It wasn’t lost on me that every time the boss went on holidays, my male colleague was given the role of “acting boss”, despite being told that it would be alternated between us. My boss routinely took credit for work I did, without attributing it to me, including using something I did all the work for, without any input from him. He then used it as justification for his own promotion. He always personally acknowledged the great work of my male colleague.

I was routinely asked to attend meetings with the boss to take notes and minutes, but he decided that those “admin tasks” were not appropriate for my male colleague and he would request a trainee to join our team to do them.

It struck me as quite sexist that I was routinely expected to do the note and minute taking “as part of my role”, yet it was below my male colleague, despite him being the same level as me and having the same skills! As an aside, the same manager became quite creepy when I was pregnant — he tried telling me that I had to tell him my personal health details so he could “properly manage me”. When I refused to tell him, he tried disciplining me for “not respecting his authority as my manager”.

Thankfully I saw the warning signs and spoke to his manager (who was a decent bloke) and the HR manager about it — neither of whom were happy to have a heavily pregnant employee being harassed. I ended up in mediation with him (during which he actually called me his wife’s name!) and he was told to back off. Sexist bosses are so much fun to work with.

Angela: I used to do work for the company geophysicist, interpreting his data and writing reports. It wasn’t my job, by the way. When head office liked the results, he would claim credit for them. When they didn’t, he’d blame me and I’d get the rolling of the eyes and “Oh, a woman,” comments. Meanwhile, in my business, which I run with my husband, he regularly gets asked to speak at conferences, to be part of advisory committees, to help with software development — even though I am equally if not more qualified in some areas. Since he’s a wonderful guy, he’s actually suggested to them that I could help. They still ask him.

Joanna: I am a senior government communications adviser. Men continually question my professional advice, then seek second opinions from male colleagues who offer identical advice. Once a bloke has provided the same advice will they follow it. Happens all the time and it is infuriating. Others will have much worse stories but the point is it’s sexism big and small that tips the scales against women on a daily basis.

Brie: I work for a state government. Cabinet directed that a $100M program be put into place in time for the budget. The directive was ignored by male Treasury executives because they think they know better. But in early June the same executives have to go to a Budget Review meeting to talk about the Budget that’ll be released in July. The Premier asks “where’s my program?” No answer from them.

The boss goes spare. I then get one day to pull this massive program together (I kid you not), and two other staff and I have four weeks to put all the systems in place so that small businesses can apply for program funding from 1 July.

Freya: I’m a mental health researcher, now based in Boston. I’ve never had a permanent job since getting my doctorate in 2010, but that’s the state of academia and research in general. I have, however, rescued projects of Professors (white middle-class males in permanent positions) by doing work completely outside my own job, more often than not unpaid because I was never quite sure if doing extra would help bring more job security.

It never did because one colleague, in particular, used my work as part of his application to be awarded Associate Professor. I moved to Boston on a fixed-term contract. I love my job here but it took more than a year to prove to one Professor that I could do my job. He didn’t take qualitative analysis seriously. When I first arrived he sent a paper to my boss for me (because why just email me) to “help”.

The paper was a qualitative analysis that was so bad I would reject it if reviewing for publication. He thought this was what I did. He’s now very supportive, but it took a year of me doing more work than any of the other people at my level, emails to him explaining in detail why I’ve done certain things, being the most prepared person in the room constantly. And it means that my actual boss is trying to extend my contract here because she wants to keep me.

But I’m exhausted to my bones — just by trying to keep my job and not be treated like a dumb blonde.

Jess: I’ve learned that the only way to be taken seriously is to be as loud and in-your-face as possible. Pretty much, act like a man. That way you can’t be ignored. But if you do that, you’re just asking for words like “aggressive”, “intimidating” and “bossy” in performance reviews.

Then there’s the fact that at my last place of work, I had to have an email alias on my account for “[email protected]” instead of “[email protected]” because a woman couldn’t possibly do this job. The phone calls coming through that, when I answer, get a huge sigh and a “Are the guys not in yet?”

Van: I wrote, directed, designed and co-produced a little fringe show for a big city festival with a couple of locals. This is only in 2014. The show was a hit. Won three festival awards, including best play. A residency at the festival centre, $1500 prize money for a new work, some statues. I was flying to a theatre conference in Italy the day of the prize night. The other co-producer, who was an actor in it, took it upon himself to receive the awards.

In his speech, he thanked every single person involved in the production — except me. After his speech, the sole female actor in the show ran onto the stage and bellowed “Van Badham wrote this! She was the director!” before she was hauled off.

The actor dude kept the prize money, and the residency. He kept all the statues. I contacted the festival centre and the prize committee to tell them what had happened. They just shrugged and were like “oh, it’s his company”. It wasn’t, but that was it.

He developed some shitty play there that tanked at the next festival. That next year I did something on a budget of five bucks and string that collected a bunch of five-star reviews and sold out. But I didn’t get any awards. I guess I have a “problematic” reputation.

Things like this happen to me all the time. Male writers taking credit for my work, male directors taking credit for it. A friend of mine was talking to some dude in a bar in Brunswick who announced that he wrote all my Guardian columns and that the Guardian just put my face on them to appeal to a female audience or something.

Literally every time it’s happened I’ve gone to my agent and lost my shit. Every time they remind me that a legal process is expensive and time-consuming and my best revenge is that I’ll write another play/film/column and the dude won’t.

The dude with all my statues is pyramid-selling frog serum now.

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