"I've been in the same situation as Jennifer Hawkins, and I know exactly why she didn't speak out."

It’s not every day I get to say I have something in common with Jennifer Hawkins, but last weekend, I found myself knowing exactly what it was like to be in her stylish shoes.

Last weekend, a five-year-old video emerged of presidential candidate Donald Trump calling the Australian model and business woman onto stage at an event and then proceeding to humiliate her, make sexual jokes at her expense and launch himself at her while trying to land a kiss.

When questioned about the video footage, and her overall relationship with Trump and his family, all Jennifer said in response was:

“Sure, I’ve seen what’s been going on in the news, but really what is there for me to say other than that he respected me during that time in my life.

“I have a lot of respect for him because of that … that’s really all I have to say about it,” she told The Herald Sun.

Jennifer Hawkins and Donald Trump. (Image via Getty)

Her words may have seemed innocent, but they also caused a wave of disappointment across Australia, with so many of her fans wishing she had called out such vile behaviour.

But I know exactly why she didn't.

Throughout my nearly decade-long career, I've worked for multiple media companies as a writer, editor and columnist. And while all these jobs were brimming with opportunity, creativity and achievement, they also had something much more sinister in common.


During many of these roles I answered to older male bosses, men who single-handedly held the power to make or break my career.

Men who had risen to the top of the media game during a time when women worked on the social pages rather than the sports section. A time when there was no such thing as sexual harassment in the newsroom, and the attitude was very much "frankly, young lady, you're lucky to be here at all."

Times may have been changing, but these men were firmly rooted in the glory days of old.

In fact, I've worked for so many "Donald Trumps" in my time that I can't even bring myself to sit through an episode of Mad Men.

Because, while the cigar smoking, power-suit wearing characters may provide lighthearted entertainment for anyone who hasn't slaved away for such titans, for me, it's like watching a triggering home movie.

And, just like Jennifer, I know the inner pain of not just enduring one of these bouts of 'good natured' sexual mockery, but having to publicly smile through it.

I've worked for so many "Donald Trumps" in my time. (Image via Getty) .

I remembered the first time my boss made a sexual joke at my expense, and earned a raucous bout of laughter as his reward.

I had joined him at a presentation and, before I could even open my mouth, he turned out towards the sea of male co-workers and clients, waved his hands less than a millimeter from my breasts and said "now blokes, I know all you want to do is look here, but I'm going to have to ask you to listen for just a moment."


Instantly I felt a red hot flush of embarrassment rip up my neck and chest like a forest fire, and it took everything I had not to desperately cover my chest with my carefully written notes.

I should have shot him an angry look, or cornered him about it afterward, but all I did was laugh and allow him to give my hand a long squeeze before he left me alone on stage.

"Instantly I felt a red hot flush of embarrassment rip up my neck and chest like a forest fire." (Image via iStock)

I played along with the joke, and from then on I was thought of as easy-going and inviting, a team player. More opportunities quickly opened up in front of me.

This same boss and his senior colleagues also had a lovely habit of trading time with their young female employees to clients who laid down the big bucks.

So, instead of giving away a company coaster or a pen as a way of saying "thanks for you business", the ladies of the publication were requested to join them for drinks and provide a captive audience well into the night.

It was billed as "networking", but not one women who was forced to perform at these special outings was swayed by that particular sales line.


We may have been the public faces of these media outlets, but we also knew that these men really pulled the strings.

And not one of us wanted to be cut loose.

"I know exactly why Jennifer Hawkins didn't speak out." (Image via Getty)

And just like I'm sure Jennifer's reign as Miss World was mostly wonderful, my time working with these men was not all bad. It's only now that I realise that's what made it all the harder to break away.

With every new opportunity or promotion, came the sense that I was moving closer and closer to my dream career.

So what if I had to let my boss roughly kiss my cheek or hug me just few seconds longer than I felt comfortable with every time a new accolade came my way?

That was the price we all had to pay.

But now that there is no senior male boss dictating my every move, there are moments where the anger and regret bubble up with such force inside me that I want to track these men down at their opulent homes and take to their cars with a golf club.

Just a touch of payback for some of the humiliating moments they put me and my co-workers through as we slowly built up our profiles.

Like the time a writer was forced to pose in our pages in her bikini, with the hopes she would one day be given her own column. Or those special times when our editors physically groaned  with desire and then laughed to each other every time a fellow writer and I entered the sales meetings.


Or, during every event our company hosted, when I would have to stand beside these men at the photo wall, letting them put their arms around me while smiling politely at their jokes.

That was the price we all had to pay. (Image via iStock)

Each and every time I just went through the motions, knowing it would be silly to rock the corporate boat.

I'm not privy to the inner workings of Jennifer Hawkins's and Trump's private history, but watching that footage last weekend elicited a surge of empathy and understanding.

The career ladder won't always push you up a few rungs if you stand up for yourself and while calling out sexism is personally and morally gratifying, it doesn't always feel that way when you're desperately searching for a new job.

I want to be the person that calls out that behaviour, but I've played the game far too long to try and break the rules now. And I have a feeling Jennifer feels the same way.

Working for a Trump isn't easy, but I'm starting to see a future where their days of tyranny are numbered.

And next time, I just might fight back.