Jacqui Felgate: ‘There’s been a shift in how men treat women’

From sexist comments to genuine support, Jacqui Felgate reflects on how men’s behaviour toward women in the workplace has changed.

Men can be accused of being many things.

Privileged, lazy, entitled, sexist … the list goes on.

We can tar them as a group, and the brush is broad.

As a middle-aged woman working in the media, some shocking things have been said to me by men over the years.

And I know I’m not alone.

But over the past few years I’ve noticed a marked shift in the way men treat women.

And not just younger men either.

I look back on my career and recall some of the choice remarks that were said to me early on.

Probably the one that takes the cake was from a then boss of mine who loudly announced to everyone as I walked through the office that “you’d make a great stripper”, and sniggered.

Nothing against anyone who works in the adult entertainment industry — all the more power to you — but at the time, as a fresh-faced young reporter, all I wanted to do was sink through the floor.

Female reporters were often assigned certain kinds of stories (think lightweight) when I began in media more than 20 years ago.

I’m thankful that ship has long sailed.

A fresh start

I’m 41 years old now and I recently started a new job.

I’ll admit that I was nervous being a female radio host at a station where all my colleagues are older and male.

And here’s what happened.

Every single one of these men have embraced me with open arms.

They all rang to ask how they could help me settle in, gave me helpful feedback and support, and are still checking in today.

Shifting attitudes

In any job, you deal with pressure — and I came under quite a lot recently.

They all called to inquire after my mental health and welfare.

I can’t imagine this happening in the workplace 20 years ago.

Men weren’t in tune with their own mental health, let alone that of their colleagues.

Nobody had heard of the word “wellness”.

And talking about mental health issues was a sign of weakness.

Their support made me think a lot about how men are often quiet about their own mental health.

The fact that these men thought about my own health and bothered to check in really made my heart sing.

And it made me realise how far we have come: men inquiring about a colleague’s mental health, regardless of their age or gender.

I would like to think this means they are also more in tune with their own wellbeing.

The times they are a changin’

I host a talkback radio program at a station that has a lot of older male listeners.

I wasn’t sure if they would find my style of broadcasting their cup of tea — a feminist mother of two girls in her 40s.

And, of course, there will be many people — both men and women, young and old — who don’t like me.

And that’s OK.

You’re not going to be loved by everyone in life!

But what has surprised me is the number of older men who have called in to have a chat, to share their opinions, to agree to disagree and debate.

I think we can be quick to judge older men, and rightly so — there are centuries of precedent to go on.

But I absolutely believe times have changed.

There are so many men — at home, in the workplace, in life — who truly believe in lifting women up and supporting them.

And that is worthy of celebration.

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Written by Jacqui Felgate.