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.