Liberal MP Karen Andrews has revealed she was forced to walk out of a recent meeting after a male stakeholder repeatedly gestured he was unbuckling his belt and about to unzip his pants.
In an all-female panel on ABC’s Q&A marking International Women’s Day, Ms Andrews, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, was asked about a story she previously shared about having to end a meeting because of inappropriate behaviour.
“A male in the meeting thought it was appropriate for him to make gestures as if he was going to remove his trousers,” Ms Andrews said.
“And at that point, I called it as inappropriate behaviour, and I left the meeting.”
Ms Andrews’ frank admission left Q&A host Annabel Crabb speechless and sent shockwaves through the studio.
“You weren’t expecting to get that answer, were you?” Ms Andrews said.
“I wasn’t. I’m surprised and thrilled,” Ms Crabb replied.
In a Sydney Morning Herald interview last week, Ms Andrews said she was disrespected more times as her career progressed.
In this particular instance, Ms Andrews said she felt the need to immediately remove herself from that situation, adding that she received an apology the following day.
“It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t smart – it was inappropriate. And I think that women need to start calling out that behaviour as and when it happens,” she said.
“There would have been no point in me continuing that meeting, and then complaining about it to my peers afterwards. I needed to act, and I did.”
Ms Crabb asked the Coalition minister what she thought had motivated the unnamed male stakeholder to make inappropriate sexual gestures at her.
“Was that person just absolutely unaccustomed to the idea of dealing with a powerful woman, or deliberately trying to provoke you out of some sort of sense of pique?” Ms Crabb said.
Ms Andrews responded: “Well, if I was to be generous, I would say that the individual concerned was not used to dealing with senior women in a workplace. And probably genuinely, I think that was the issue.”
The panellists also discussed the role of men in the age of #MeToo, the question of men mentoring women, and the Liberal Party’s target for 50 per cent of its caucus to be female by 2025.