5

I'm 3 years out of school and at my third job, working as a software engineer. I left the first two because of rampant sexual harassment from my coworkers and managers. I'm running into the same thing at my current job, so I don't think finding a new job is the answer. I regularly get emails from male coworkers I've never met and don't work with, asking me out for lunch, or male coworkers stopping by my desk to stare at me without saying anything. There are coworkers who will follow me around and not leave me alone in the cafeteria, insisting on sitting next to me and trying to force a conversation about my personal life, like asking about where I live or if I have a boyfriend. I have male coworkers who will comment on what I'm wearing every day. When I've reported this to HR, they always say something like "well they're probably just trying to be friendly."

The reason I'm asking here is that I only ever experience sexual harassment at work - I take public transit to/from work and regularly go to music festivals/bars/gyms, and while harassment can happen, it's incredibly rare and I can shut it down quickly, while at every job I've had it's started day 1 and continued my entire career.

I'm not sure what to do here. I'm considering leaving software engineering if this continues. Does anyone have any advice on how to address this problem?

12
  • 1
    Software engineering, UX/front-end specifically. – user117288 Apr 8 '20 at 15:07
  • 3
    Have you talked about it with other women close to your age (or not) to see if they encounter the same problem? Also is there a women only group in your organisation you could talk about this? I'm asking because some company have let this comportement become part of their culture and I feel knowing more about the company culture could help define some actions. – JayZ Apr 8 '20 at 15:14
  • 7
    Please don’t vandalize the post. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Apr 8 '20 at 15:59
  • 2
    Why was this closed? It seems like a valid question to me. – nick012000 Apr 9 '20 at 4:29
  • 3
    I'm voting to delete this question. It's obvious that the asker had second thoughts about asking. Maybe they are afraid someone will figure out who they are. In any case, the polite thing to do would be to adhere to their wishes. – Gregory Currie Apr 11 '20 at 5:29
5

I'm sorry to hear this is happening to you. It's the software trade's biggest disgrace. And we wonder why so few women in our trade...

You can take action. Read your company's employee manual, and look for the section on workplace harassment. It probably specifies what to do. It usually offers an alternative person for reporting in case the primary person isn't responsive, or is a perpetrator themselves.

Keep a record of incidents, on paper, with times / dates / names . Take these records home with you. You don't need tonnage of incidents, just a few.

When you're ready, follow the instructions in your employee manual to report your harassment. Ask for what you want them to do. "Make it stop" might be a choice.

If they blow you off, contact your mayor or state legislator and ask for a referral to your state's anti-discrimination agency. They'll probably be able to help.

If they retaliate against you, by firing you or demoting you or something, hire a lawyer. You'll probably be able to collect a serious amount of money as compensation. That money will come out of the shareholders' hides, so management will be motivated to do better in future (not that it helps you much).

Your HR department, by blowing you off, is putting the company at serious risk.

Again, I'm sorry you're the one who has to suffer with this stuff, and the one who has to confront it. It's just wrong.

4

If a co-worker comes to your desk and stares at you, get up and say very loudly so that everyone can hear it: “Why are you standing there and staring at me? Don’t you have work to do?”

If someone insists on sitting next to you in the cafeteria, accidentally spilling your coffee over their clothes might educate them.

If there is any female in HR, forwarding emails asking you out to her should help.

All the examples that you gave are things where normal rules of politeness don’t apply. Having your phone camera ready will also help.

If it doesn’t stop, take O. Jones’ advice, then look at a better position. I must say, being in the UK, I have never encountered anything like that. At my current place, my boss would have one conversation with the offender, and if the behaviour repeats, he would be out, with his head ripped off or not. Plus at least four other men who wouldn’t allow it to happen. The place before, all men would sit back and enjoy watching the HR lady and her best friend take the offender apart in that situation:-)

PS. There are people who will talk to you to be friendly. I assume you know the difference.

There are people who are very bad at reading situations and generally bad in social situations. These people need to be told explicitly what they are doing wrong, then they learn. To these people, say exactly what you mean. Don’t give hints, they don’t get hints. (Of course some people are just pests).

And don’t leave software development. Find a decent company with decent employees.

2
  • +10 (if I could). Harassment is unacceptable. Do not accept it. Do not leave the software industry. As a wise person used to say: "A workplace is not a dating agency, not even for lonely males that have no other chance of meeting a woman". – Captain Emacs Apr 8 '20 at 23:50
  • -1 (if I could) for the bad advice at the start, which contradicts your own good advice about not giving hints. – Brian Drake Mar 7 at 13:35
-4

A few aproaches:

  1. Depending the size of the company you work, they may have a comitee that enforce rules and standards for sexual harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity among others.
  2. If you do have enough evidence (e-mails, audios, security cameras footage) and HR is ignoring this, fill a police report and/or look for a lwayer. Specially if this behavior is more frequent with one person or a specific group of people.
  3. Do not hesitate in use all the means to avoid physical and verbal abuse. I mean, if you need to punch some guy in the face because he's touching you without your permission and in an abusive way, just do it. Same for screaming for help.
2
  • Don't need to downvote. I answered the question before the edit – Croves Apr 8 '20 at 15:53
  • 8
    Don't even think of suggesting punching. This looks cool in movies. In real life, the results can be dire, ranging from being punched back by a man with a lot of anger to losing the job and lawsuits. Dangerous advice. – Captain Emacs Apr 8 '20 at 23:52

You must log in to answer this question.