Welcome to The Bandwagon’s new feature for 2016 – #InspiringWomen. These posts aim to not only celebrate successful women, but also to encourage others to follow their dreams. Meet July’s lady, Karin Bosman.
Activist, writer and inspiring woman, Karin Bosman is fighting to protect people from workplace sexual harassment. Her personal experiences are powerful, and her work is incredibly important and, unfortunately, necessary.
What made you want to join your industry?
My industry is advocating on sexual workplace harassment by creating awareness on what sexual workplace harassment is: how to define, recognize and prevent it. And combat for criminal prosecution via labor law for offenders of sexual workplace harassment. I have joined this industry because of my personal experience with this subject, I have been sexual harassed by my employer and that continued for two years.
What challenges have you had to overcome in order to get where you are today? (personal and/or professional)
The taboo that rests on sexual workplace harassment is powerful –very powerful- and it’s tangible when you are dealing with it on a daily basis. I had to overcome threats and emotional blackmail and have had to accept the fact that I was a victim of sexual harassment. With an apparently stray kiss my employer started to assault me and captured me in his web. I struggled to get out of that downward spiral and that isolated world of sadness and loneliness my employer unwittingly pulled me into. When I finally did, I lost my job, my income, my colleagues etc.
What does being a woman mean to you?
What does being a women mean to me, being a woman means being strong, because you’ll find that your womanhood will need that strength which every women can find in herself. Being a women means that you take responsibility for your life even when you are afraid or disconnected from that woman you’re used be, for example when fear, pain or shame has changed you. Being a women to me means that we have that strength and flexibility to find her again no matter what, a strong will to service but besides this being a women to me means being a human.
In what ways has your gender helped or hindered you in your industry?
Because more women than men are being harassed in the workplace it’s comfortable for women when they join my lecture or workshop about this subject of sexual workplace harassment. When I share my personal experiences and knowledge they feel safe to share their own or ask the questions needed to reflect their own work environment. Men, during my presentations, are most of the time quiet because I inform about the meaning of sexual workplace harassment: power and control and the changes. More often men are being harassed by women and then there’s existence of same sex harassment. Most hinder in my industry comes from counselors who are feeling attacked when I speak about integrity or managers who don’t acknowledge the existence of sexual workplace harassment and look at it as a joke. They don’t see the need of training and implementation of non-discrimination or general company policies.
Name some women who inspire you.
I’m inspired by all women who are fighting for women’s rights and women who speak-up about their experiences despite all bad mouthing they most of the time have to deal with. By sharing these experiences we combat together and we will be a stronger force in creating a better environment for all by knowledge about defining, recognizing and prevention. In a more personal way I’m inspired by my mother Elise, who lost her fight against cancer without the chance to get to know her daughter, she was only 42 years old and I had just become 2. And I always feel empowered by my daughter (15) because she kept me standing during the harassment and the following trail. With her unconditional love and her faith in me, I feel strong and committed.
What advice would you give to young women who want to go into your industry?
The industry of advocating against sexual workplace harassment does not have be a full time job for young women, but learning about sexual workplace harassment like that you never must blame yourself, are important lessons. So I would like to advice young women to learn more about this subject and look for possibilities at school, university or the Internet to educate themselves. Advocating on sexual workplace harassment doesn’t have to be a full time job but it certainly has to be a full time awareness. My advice is to speak-up for yourself and also for others who can’t because they are to scared, to afraid or just not themselves anymore, like what happened to me.
Karin is currently working on a smartphone app to report sexual harassment in the workplace. She’s looking for companies who want to support or implement this app for their organization, so get in touch via her blog.
@spittingontosti | @AboutHarassment