This is a massive problem and needs to stop.
I am unsure why this hasn’t been discussed widely before anywhere really in Nigeria but sexual harassment is a real big problem. When I first came to Nigeria, I heard so many stories of women in ‘marketing’ roles at companies being subjected to unwanted sexual advances and it largely being loosely accepted as an occupational hazard. At some institutions it is encourage for female employees to sleep with prospective clients to help ‘facilitate’ the deal. These were always second or third source stories so largely didn’t break into my universe. And with everything in life, we humans remain ignorant until we are presented with such.
In May 2012 I began the process of formalizing our global business development team at iROKO. We have 1-3-person teams working in NYC, London and Johannesburg. I have never heard of any sexual harassment related issues in these offices. Mild flirting between adults is very different to sexual harassment. What is sexual harassment?
* Insisting ‘Let’s meet for drinks at the hotel rather than the office to discuss your business proposal’ - hint, hint nod nod.
* What are you willing to do to make this deal happen? ‘Are you ready to make me happy?’
* Without reason unnecessary touching. Massaging Shoulders, legs etc.
* Lewd comments directly referencing female body parts
* ‘Come and sit on my lap and explain your proposal’
* ‘You’re the one holding this deal as a pretty girl like you should know what to do.’
Now I am no new age feminist, save-the-humanities-puritan and have been known for using a whole manner profanities around the office daily but what we are talking about is very different.
In Lagos it’s straight up predatory behaviour. I would hazard to say at least half of the times I send my female employes out for meetings there are some type of variation of above. Now this would not be possible in the West as the legal ramifications would be devastating to companies and individuals alike. In Nigeria, it is widely accepted. And this is a cancer which will silently destroy the moral fabric of corporate and / or business development. Does it mean our women must prostitute themselves to gain any advantage in the corporate world? From today I will make it a point of duty to cease doing business with companies or individuals who even think this is acceptable.