Speak­ing up

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

For too long, too many of us have put up with bad be­hav­iour at work, ac­cept­ing the words and ac­tions of sup­pos­edly grown-up col­leagues that we would never tol­er­ate from our chil­dren. We shrugged be­cause that was just the way of­fice life was.

But that re­signed ac­cep­tance al­lowed bul­lies and abusers to flour­ish, and some of their col­leagues paid an in­tol­er­a­bly high price. Ex­traor­di­nar­ily, we learnt ear­lier this year that some of the worst be­hav­iour took place at law firms, per­pe­trated by peo­ple one might have ex­pected to have a more height­ened sense of fair­ness and jus­tice than the rest of us. Again, their col­leagues shrugged and said that was just the way things were in male-dom­i­nated work­places.

But not ev­ery­one was pre­pared to let it pass. Among the brave souls for­ever swim­ming against the tide was em­ploy­ment lawyer Steph Dyhrberg, win­ner of the Welling­to­nian of the Year award at the Do­min­ion Post ‘‘Welly’’ awards on Thurs­day night.

The con­vener of the Welling­ton Women Lawyers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has long con­demned the way law firms treated ju­nior work­ers, par­tic­u­larly young women, and she stepped up that crit­i­cism af­ter rev­e­la­tions about sex­ual mis­con­duct at Rus­sell McVeagh.

She has not been alone in her fight to ex­pose this be­hav­iour, and was quick to pay trib­ute on win­ning her award to the young women whose al­le­ga­tions brought the case to light. But at times she must have felt like a voice in the wilder­ness.

The stand­ing ova­tion she re­ceived on Thurs­day should be a wel­come sign that such voices now have a wider au­di­ence.

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