This International Women’s Day I’d like to share a confession with you.

If you’re not familiar with my work history I have a long career in medical sales. Summer 2018 found me in Zurich, visiting my Swiss distributor to deliver product training. A beautiful sunny evening saw three of us sitting in a lakeside restaurant getting to know one another a bit better. The distributors’ female sales rep whose hospital we would visit, my male colleague from the UK who handled clinical training, and me. We enjoyed a lovely dinner while the restaurant filled up and lights came on.

◊  I had led the recruitment of my male colleague one year earlier and those involved agreed he was the strongest fit for the job we needed him to do. Aside from his clinical expertise he was also very sociable and, as it turned out, entertaining company. This meant that I could have a bit of a rest if we were out in a group, since he would always have something to say, or a tale to tell.

This particular night in Zurich he was his usual chatty self, until he started making jokey comments about a young woman sitting behind me with her parents. Apparently she was pretty and rather voluptuous, attributes causing him to stare whilst commenting. Eventually she changed places with her parents, so she had her back to us. The Swiss rep and I exchanged surprised glances, not knowing what to say in such an uncomfortable situation. As the night wore on our guy started chatting to two British women on another adjacent table, amicable but an extremely rude way to behave when we were out with a customer.

◊  As a manager I would not call out a colleague in front of others and, six years later, I don’t recall if I mentioned his behaviour when we spoke next morning. He did not report to me so was it my place to reprimand him?

Today there is no doubt in my mind that I should have called him out in the restaurant, even if it meant stepping outside to do so. His behaviour was embarrassing and disrespectful. It was also misogynistic, hiding in the guise of banter, and we are so accustomed to this in our society that we laugh it off, or ignore it. We say ‘boys will be boys’ without a second thought that the behaviour is wrong and gives permission for it to continue.

I could have tapped on the guilt I still feel about handling this badly. Maybe one day I will, but for now it serves as reminder to me that I have my part to play in striving to #InspireInclusion