A Melbourne entrepreneur says she was forced to reject an invitation to “get a hotel room” while meeting a potential investor, in an episode she says would be all too familiar to many Australian businesswomen.
Gemma Lloyd said she was confronted with the question while meeting with a man who appeared to think he was in a "position of power".
At the time she said she was working raise the capital to start Diverse City Careers with her business partner Valeria Ignatieva.
“It was completely disgusting but for some reason I still didn’t want to be rude... I was quite nervous in my response,” she said.
She said it felt as if the man was trying to let her know that "if I did something for him, he would do something for me".
Ms Lloyd said she politely ended the meeting, but regretted not handling it more sternly.
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If it happened again today, she said she would have.
Ms Lloyd said she had stopped looking for potential investors in part due to the “predatory” behavior she had allegedly encountered.
Instead the pair opted to self-finance the venture but she has now used her own experiences to advise other women in business for themselves, or working for employers.
She said her business brings her into contact with hundreds of woman, many who could relate to the hotel proposition.
Men in business who “expect something” are not uncommon, Ms Lloyd said. It could be a particularly tricky situation when the advances came from clients.
In those situations, women could find themselves pressure to "not rock the boat" by taking action against client advances because it could hurt the business bottom-line.
Other female professionals such from lawyers to IT workers (Ms Lloyd once worked in the male-dominated IT industry) to often found themselves in that position.
Ms Lloyd had straightforward advice for such workers: Leave.
“Know your value and know your worth,” she said.
“If you’re in that environment, you should leave if you’re not getting support.”