Sometimes, it appears, guys and girls have very different reactions to sexual harassment.
Two graduates have been victims of inappropriate advances during job interviews this year. Michelle Kuwodza, a food sciences graduate, found herself on the receiving end of improper sexual advances from an operations manager, who she would not name for fear of reprisal. Kuwodza said she was called to an “interview” at one of the offices of a food manufacturing company.
She was sent directly to the operations manager’s office, who proceeded to interview her for a post which was not advertised.
“When I went in, the manager kept talking about general stuff.” The conversation had nothing to do with the interview, she said. “He would give a situation involving a married couple and insinuate that me and him [sic] could be married,” she said.
The manager even asked her out for “drinks”.
“He suggested we go out for drinks, and [that] he would teach me how to drink alcohol and other stuff,” she said.
Kuwodza did not know what this “other stuff” was. She did not ask further questions because she did not want to encourage him. She acknowledged that in the end it probably wasn’t an interview, as he did not have any paper work, nor did he ask any questions that pertained to her field of study and the post advertised.
She also told Wits Vuvuzela that the same operations manager contacted her a week or so after the interview to ask her out for drinks yet again.
She refused his invitation and did not get the advertised job. Reacting quite differently from the young woman, and with a different end result, a male graduate, Joe Sithole (not his real name) said he had been the recipient of inappropriate “compliments” from a female human resource manager who happened to be a big fan of his “big hands”.
“She told me I smelled and looked good. And during the interview she kept dropping compliments, and I don’t know, being sort of ‘interested’,” he said. When asked what he meant he said, “I’m a man, I know if a woman wants my attention.”
After the interview he shook her hand to leave and the manager proceeded to compliment him on his “strong grip” before he left. He was pretty impressed with the “compliments”. He got the job.
As the end of the year draws near, final year students are faced with the prospect of job hunting. Students find it difficult to identify what constitutes sexual harassment in situations such as job interviews.
The United Nations website describes sexual harassment as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”
Jackie Dugard, the director of Wits’ Sexual Harassment Office, spoke about the steps one can take when they are faced with a similar situation.
“If harassment results in someone not being offered a job, they can take matters forward in litigation and/or with the CCMA, (the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, a body that deals with labour disputes), Dugard said.