I was at a networking event recently, full of entrepreneurs and tech start-up types and those aspiring to be one of these.
I missed the main event, because apparently I don't read instructions well, but was there to mingle and eat free food.
Then I was introduced to someone we'll call David.
Organizer: Will, this is David. David, Will.
Me: Hi David. What do you do?
David: I run Blahblah.
Me: Oh, right. Hey, you'd know Fatima.
David: Yeah. B----.
David: Yeah I know her. She's a b----.
Me: Uh. Right. And why is that?
David: Well, we hired her for a six month contract. Two months into it she takes something else and up and leaves. Caused me so much grief.
I then asked David if he thought that this was a good reason to call a woman a 'b----'. David's quick defense was that he had given me 'context' for it.
I explained I didn't really think that mattered. People take jobs. That's what they do. She took a job with you. She then took a different job. It happens.
But, David explained, it caused him so much grief in having to re-hire and all that …
Me: Right, I get that. That sucks. But can't you agree there's a better, more gentlemanly way to express your grief than calling a woman a b----?
David: Yes. I suppose. I take your point.
Me: Also, don't you think it's a really stupid thing to be doing, walking around networking events saying these things? She is, after all, a good friend of mine. It's also, you know, pretty stupid considering all the 'news' about how women are being treated in tech.
At this point, David launched into listing a series of percentages and policies that Blahblah company upholds around women. It was great to hear. Though sounded very much like he had learned it rote for this very situation.
I rolled my eyes and told him good job but be careful about what you say about people.
I get it. People say dumb things. People say dumb things especially when they're drinking free wine.
But I know that the woman in question, a former Director of Partnerships for a worldwide organisation, was once likened to 'one of our mistresses' by an MC at an investors meeting. I've also listened to the inane, stupid quips she's heard at Blahblah Company about women.
I know that since she moved for the new job, she was called by a real estate agent on WhatsApp, not for an apartment that was available, but simply because she 'looked pretty'.
I know that I got in an office lift this morning with four men in suits who went on about some woman they'd dubbed 'Swiggle T---'. Whatever that means.
I know that I left work on Friday and watched as a man slid forward in the crowd so he could stare at a young woman's yoga-pant clad a-- and gesture to his friend. She was probably still a teenager. As we crossed the road, I made sure to walk in between them.
I know that, on a recent trip to Berlin my delegation attended a panel with (male) investors and a government representative to talk about start-ups. My fellow delegate Monica Wulff, tired of the platitudes, raised her hand to ask a question specifically about Australian start-ups. They talked around her question. She asked again. They basically brushed her off. Then I, a youngish white male, asked the same question — and they finally answered it.
I know that I went to another panel at the G20 YEA conference where four men discussed big data. One of them, a man from Google France commented that 'for some reason girls lose interest in tech after age twelve'. So I got up, joined the hotseat and explained it's not 'some reason'. It's that girls are told that it's no place for them through culture and exclusive practices.
After I got down from the hotseat, a young black woman got up and said a really powerful piece about women in tech. I looked up her background. She had a big data start-up. I asked if she had applied to be on the panel. She had. Curious that she wasn't selected. Anyway, you should follow her on Twitter.
I know that female entrepreneur friends of mine are never sure if a coffee meeting with a male contact is actually about business or not.
I know that when a woman is cast as the new Doctor, The Sun runs a story about her past nude scenes for some reason.
I know that I can walk into a meeting wearing pretty much anything and that I can leave the office at any time of night and not worry about being assaulted.
I know that the common slang for women are all reducing them to animals — b----, cow, etc.
I know that one in three women will be assaulted before they turn 15 and that one in five women has been sexually assaulted.
I also know that any man who is uncomfortable with the empowerment of women is simply afraid that the only thing he has going for him is that he is a man.
I'm so tired of the things I know, the things I hear and the things I see.
And I cannot begin to imagine how tiring it must be to be a woman.
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