ABC anchor Leigh Sales has spoken candidly about the sexism she’s experienced as a woman in Australia.
At a Sydney Media Club lunch on Wednesday, the 7.30 host was asked to talk about her experiences as a woman making a successful career.
She said she felt as if there was a system in place that protected powerful men and often made women feel like they were the problem.
“We talk a lot at the moment about harassment and abuse,” Ms Sales said, referring to the high-profile rape allegations rocking federal parliament and the March4Justice protests that followed.
“I do think, from speaking to a lot of female friends and colleagues, there are also just what I would call minor little slights, that happen all the time and which constantly make you feel like the world is designed mostly for men to be in key positions.”
“When it happens individually it’s nothing, but when it happens all the time, taken together, it can be a lot.”
As an example, she said wireless microphones often used during public speaking engagements were designed for men’s clothes, and required a sturdy lapel, a heavy belt and a coat to cover it up.
“I’m always made to feel a little bit inconvenient,” she said.
There were other examples as well — such as being made to feel annoying for needing to use the toilet and being told her male counterpart never had that need; and male colleagues setting up windy filming locations suitable for men with short hair, but not women with long hair.
“Nobody involved in any of these incidents do I consider sexist, or bad people, or anything of that nature. In isolation, (the incidents) are all totally minor,” Sales said.
“But it’s also the fact that all of these things can be immediately skewed to make me sound like the world’s biggest pain in the arse … It’s very easy for women in these situations to turn into the person who is ‘the problem’. When actually, the problem is that this is designed for men.”
Her words drew big applause from the 80 or so people in the audience.
The $150-a-head lunch, held at an Italian restaurant in the eastern Sydney suburb of Rushcutters Bay, was hosted by Sydney Media Club, an organisation launched by the Kennedy Foundation last year.
Attendees were treated to wine, antipasto starters, a main choice of pappardelle duck ragu or veal parmigiana, and cannoli for dessert.
Sales also told the crowd she’d had her fair share of online trolls trying to make life difficult for her, but that she’d handled the problem by becoming less engaged with the online world.
In her view, the abuse experienced by women online was a reflection of the sexism at play in society at large.
“Sexism is pervasive everywhere, and sexism has always been used as a tool to silence women,” she said.
“So (on social media) it’s like the world, it’s used the same way — as a weapon against women.”