Ask Our Boss: Our Commitment to Helping You Reclaim Your Safety at Work

Alison Rice

In our monthly column dedicated to helping you succeed faster, our publisher Alison Rice is answering your most pressing career questions. You know, the stuff you really want to ask your boss but can’t. Have a question? Ask it on Instagram or Facebook by tagging #AskOurBoss.

I was up for a big award a few weeks ago. I didn’t win. I was a finalist in the same category last year, and while I absolutely agree with the saying that the nomination is enough, I left the venue feeling deflated. So instead of answering a reader question this month, I’d like to use this platform to explain why.

It was Mumbrella’s Publish Awards and I was a finalist in the Executive of the Year category. It’s like the media’s version of the Emmys, only without the speeches. Here’s the thing though, if I did happen to win, I was going to say a speech. I had written it in the Notes section of my iPhone and told two women about it—one was all for it, and the other suggested I should avoid “making a scene”. Unhelpful to say the least.

So I’m writing about it here instead, because not all women have a global media brand as a platform and support network from which to speak up and out. 

My duty-of-care lightbulb went off on September 28 as I was listening to a presentation by the wonderful Julie Masters. She was sharing the importance of knowing your influence intersection—the intersection of topics only you can speak to. As an example, mine is leading teams of young women and working in digital media. And then she pressed the room with a line I’ll never forget: Understand what battle has chosen you. 

On October 5—exactly one week later—the Harvey Weinstein story broke. It was then that I knew the sexual harassment I’d experienced in my decade working in media was the battle that had chosen me. As a young woman leading other young women, my failing to speak up and acknowledge it only weakens the chance of other women doing so if it happens to them.  

The awards were on October 19, and like many journalists in the room that night, we had been covering actress after actress coming forward and putting their careers on the line to speak out against Weinstein and other men in positions of power. I saw my speech as an opportunity to publicly stand beside them, even if it was in my own very small way.

Because what I realised when the Weinstein story broke was the award nomination wasn’t actually about me or the strategy I’d written, but instead, it was a triumph for every woman who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and gone on to succeed. Better yet, succeed with her drive and dignity still intact.

It’s for every one of us who just got on with the work despite the circumstances in which we had no choice but to operate in. It is for every woman who has sat in a room to learn the defense strategies she needs for the next time a man in a position of power makes her feel exploited, targeted, vulnerable or disrespected. It is for every woman who hasn’t let sexual harassment define her journey or enabled it to slow down her success.

It is a fantastic time to be a woman in leadership, but there is more work for us to do. Just like those who came before us, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s explosive story for The New York Times may have brought some justice to the women he harmed, and it absolutely does act as a gift to a new generation of young female leaders. We have to do something with it. 

From me, it’s a commitment to using my influence and the influence of the fantastic (and award winning!) websites I oversee, to share knowledge and keep this important narrative going. Because when I look back at my entry for Executive of the Year, while I gave a large portion of the word count over to the mentoring work I do both inside and outside our business, I now realise I’ve failed to share those defense strategies I learned. We work so hard on things like self-awareness and how to receive feedback, but what about learning how to defend ourselves? 

The #MeToo social campaign is a powerful example of how one exposé—four months of investigative reporting from The New York Times no less—can spark a global conversation and give other victims an opportunity to acknowledge their trauma and get support. Some have been quick to call the aftermath of the story a witch hunt, but I can only assume that is their fear talking.  

I have a lot of #MeToo stories—some casual, some explicit—but rather than list them all here, I want to instead share the first two of many stories we’re committed to telling here on MyDomaine Australia

Ask Our Boss was born out of an idea to help you succeed faster. This is no different. We stand for advancing and empowering your life and when it comes to defending yourself, the latter rings the loudest.

Reclaim your own safety by reading the stories below, and then share them with your network:

For more information head to the Australian Human Rights Commission, or for 24-hour support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Opening Image: Alison Rice by Dave Wheeler

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