Charlotte Proudman finds herself in the spotlight today after outing a senior colleague for commenting on her appearance on the professional networking site Linked In. I find myself divided not on the issue - it is unacceptable for anyone to make comments on personal appearance in the workplace - but the 'outing' itself leaves me with questions on the effectiveness of the method. Charlotte Proudman is part of a generation of professional women looking to drive a deep behavioural change. Yet, giving professional feedback in public is rarely effective.
Sexism is in my mind like smoking. Something from the past. A deeply ingrained behaviour that some people can't give up. This casual habit is clearly too damaging to society for anyone to ignore and therefore frameworks are put in place to protect people from the damage. Work is a No-Sexism zone - absolutely.
My halcyon vision is a future where we look back with our kids and find it utterly bizarre that men ever behaved in ways that objectified women, their equals in every sense. The same way kids now are smoking less than the generations before them.
I realise that we are some way from achieving this healthy goal, but is publicly shaming the most effective strategy for changing a deeply ingrained 'politically incorrect' view?
Psychologists tell us that publicly shaming someone for smoking or weight issues is not an effective strategy. Instead, people need to reach a place of change within themselves. They are more likely to reach healthier conclusions without a public shaming.
I don't question that the 'politically incorrect' comment about Charlotte Proudman's photo on Linked In was everyday sexism - pure and simple. Using terms like 'it might be politically incorrect' or 'i'm not racist but...' are not acceptable and should be nipped in the bud.
Charlotte Proudmans' actions will prompt others in her profession to think more carefully about their public words and outwardly this might be seen as a good thing. However, what does it do to change the outmoded mindset? Maybe it just drives the behaviour underground and to young women it becomes a deeper problem than ever - less visible, less manageable.
A generation struggling to catch up may retrench, fearful of humiliation and leave their sexism unsaid but still unchecked.
My twenty years as a woman working in the technology industry have taught me a thing or two about sexism. I didn't always get it right. Ultimately, I found the best way was to deal with it like giving any other professional feedback. You ask the person for permission to tell you how their comment made you feel (it is rarely denied) then you give it - fully loaded. Then you have a professional conversation rather than a muck-storm. I have never known an intelligent man not to respond positively and indeed, for his professional behaviour to change for the better.
Publicly humiliating a man, his wife and family is not a way for anyone to give professional feedback. I do however admire Charlotte Proudman for tackling the issue head on. I hope she goes on to dig deeper into the foundations of sexism to disassemble them permanently, I think she would rock.
A 57-year-old lawyer was accused of “unacceptable and misogynistic behaviour” after he sent a barrister half his age a LinkedIn message complimenting her on her “stunning picture”. Alexander Carter-Silk was named and shamed on Twitter by 27-year-old human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman who posted her reply to the message online.