The event professional's guide to address sexualization in the workplace

This article has been written by Sushma Gaikwad, co-founder of experiential agency Ice Global, as an opportunity for event professionals to recognise the signs of sexual harassment at the work place and to suggest possible measures one can take to safeguard themselves from being victimised.


In recent times cases of sexual harassment have been put in the spotlight by media across the country.  In fact, because of this, there has been an increasing awareness of human rights. Many cases of people being harassed in public spaces as well as the workplace have captured the attention of the working and professional classes.

As the talent pool expands in the event industry it has become important to create an awareness about harassment and provide workforce with access to right information as well as guidance.  In the event industry most jobs are gender neutral and both genders work at breakneck speed side by side.  Yet, like any other growing industry, the event industry could be a playground for bias and harassment if necessary checks and balances are not in place. 

I must say, that this article is not only about or for women, in fact sexual harassment is faced by both genders and it is time that the experiential industry proactively drives awareness and agencies create policies that protect the internal stakeholders.  

The 7 Indicators

  • Are you the object of lewd comments, double meaning sentences and loose talk? 
  • Are you being inappropriately propositioned for outings/sexual favours/dates?
  • Are you being constantly solicited with sexual advances in spite of having expressed that you have no interest?
  • Are you on the receiving end of uncomfortable, unwarranted looks and an uneasy body scanning gaze? 
  • Are you touched suggestively, constantly and inappropriately without your consent?
  • Have you been troubled professionally because you have not given into somebody’s unwelcome advances?
  •  Have you heard lies and gossip circulating about you at the work place regarding your character?

If your answer to any one of the above has been a yes, you are possibly the target of active or passive sexual harassment.  

I certainly do hope many of you have not experienced any of the seven indicators and would highly recommend that you remain alert and aware about your environment at work.

So, what CAN you do?

There are a few measures you could take to safeguard your interests and protect yourself from potential harassment.

Preventive Measures

  • Always be aware of your work environment.  Be selective with choosing your inner circle
  • Be aware of the body language of those who are around you and ensure you are always alert to recognise signs of unwarranted interest
  • Do not lead anyone on.If you wish to say no, say it clearly and emphatically
  • If you travel out of town with someone, ensure you are never alone with the person in the hotel room, always be alert and pour your own drinks.  Being aware is the first step to being safe
  • Do not participate in a culture that gossips or conversations that sexually objectify someone else.  
  • Maintain a professional distance with your co-workers and seniors
  • Do not allow yourself to be objectified by anyone in order to score meetings or entertain associates if you are not comfortable

Proactive Measures

  • If propositioned, ensure you speak up and say NO.  The No should be clear and direct.  You could use a variety of phrases. I have taken the liberty to detail a few:  “No, I am not interested.”, “I am not comfortable doing this,”  I do not want to be a part of this.” Sometimes a simple “No” will suffice.  
  • Sometimes those who proposition tend to get pushy to meet their objectives.  In this case it is important to maintain your NO with a strong eye contact to project self confidence 
  • If you are dealing with undertones of suggestion, it is best to take the bull by the horns and ask the person about the intention of the conversation.  Be clear that the conversation makes you feel uncomfortable

Remedial Measures

  • If you have been harassed, the first thing to do is recognise that you may have not done anything wrong to attract this treatment.  Do not blame and berate yourself.  
  • Find a confidante out of the work place if you are at the receiving end of harassment.  It is important to deal with your emotions and have someone you trust by your side for advice
  • If you have been harassed by someone you report to, do ensure that you approach a senior resource in the company with details and data to substantiate your position.  
  • If you have been harassed by the Owner/Director of the company, one of the best steps to take is to leave the organisation with immediate effect in view of your personal safety
  • Sexual harassment is a crime, and you could engage the judicial machinery of the country to bring your perpetrator to justice.  Most often perpetrators strike again because no action is taken against them and they are free to work in the shadows that are created by fear and shame of the victims.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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