An award-winning creative producer has been forced to announce that she is ‘not available for sex’ after she received an inappropriate message whilst searching for freelance work.
Emma Thomas, from London, was using LinkedIn to put her skills as a creative producer and project manager on the job market when she received the proposition from a man, who she did not name, looking to buy her ‘company’.
Ms Thomas, who specialises in ‘edgy’ PR events and is known as Miss Cakehead in the business, has worked for high-profile brands including Twitter, Cadbury, UberEats and Kopparberg, but was still targeted by a man looking for a sexual partner, rather than an employee.
She shared the exchange on LinkedIn alongside a lengthy post calling out ‘men preying on young girls’ using the platform.
The unidentified man made contact with Ms Thomas on LinkedIn before contacting her via text where he asked her if she was available for work before adding: ‘How would you feel if I paid you for some company and time of yours?’
Ms Thomas took to LinkedIn to publicly share her experiences along with screenshots of the suggestive messages she received.
She wrote: ‘I AM NOT AVAILABLE FOR SEX. Anyone reading my CV will see I am a kick a**e creative producer / project manager / creative not a sex worker! I am also f***ing furious.
‘I am so angry that anyone should try to take advantage of the dire job situation right now in such a way.
‘Feel freaked out and utterly degraded, something which I am sure will have a huge impact on my job hunting psyche today.’
Ms Thomas said that while she is made of ‘tough’ stuff she is ‘shocked’ and ‘feels sick’ worrying for the young girls who will be preyed on in the same way whilst looking for a job.
She said the text message she shared in the post, which began by asking her if she was still looking for work, had made her feel ‘so happy and positive’ that clients were looking for freelancers after a lull during the pandemic, then the harasser asked to buy her ‘company’.
Ms Thomas added: ‘To be honest I am left feeling really heartbroken about our industry in general.
‘In 2020 can women really not put their phone number on their CV!’
Ms Thomas believes that the same man has been contacting vulnerable women whose incomes have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: ‘There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind the only reason he thought he could do this is because I was vulnerable.
‘Trying to coerce me into doing something I clearly don’t advertise, like booking a builder to bake you a cake.
‘As one of the #forgotten5percent, who is a sole director of a Ltd company, he’s right I am vulnerable. I have had no government help as the career I have spent years building up plummeted off a cliff face.’
The creative producer has been turned down for numerous admin roles and jobs in supermarkets for being ‘too experienced’.
Due to the amount of attention the post has received, over 1.5 million views, Ms Thomas says she is unable to use her LinkedIn account to look for work.
Ms Thomas added: ‘I have stopped looking [for work] – it’s just broken me. The story going viral has made my LinkedIn profile almost impossible to use.’
While she has received some responses from employers after the post, Ms Thomas says that the PR and events industry is ‘on its knees’.
The post was met with a tide of support, as well as ‘entitled’ comments from men ‘mansplaining how to get a job and telling me I shouldn’t have said I had “transferable skills”’, Ms Thomas said, ‘in some ways that’s been more upsetting than the initial text’.
‘I had no idea that people held these sexist views until now, 90 per cent of the workforce I work with are men. And my best friends are men. It’s been an eyeopener.
‘But many of the men [who are doing the harassment] are hiding behind blank profiles, for the ones that have employment history I am contacting their HR department, I’ve had enough.’
Ms Thomas’s message: ‘Judge people by the ability to do their job not their sex or looks, anything else is discriminatory.’
Tomer Cohen, Global Head of Product at LinkedIn responded to Ms Thomas’s post, writing: ‘Emma, thank you for bravely sharing your experience, and I want you to know you are supported by our LinkedIn community.
‘While the interaction in your post did not happen on LinkedIn, we’re listening carefully and working hard to make sure LinkedIn is a safe, professional, and trusted environment.
‘Harassment has no place on LinkedIn. It is completely unacceptable and would not be tolerated. To keep you and our members safe, our teams work every day to stop inappropriate behavior, including new protections you’ll start seeing soon.
‘I appreciate you sharing your experience and standing up against harassment.’
Ms Thomas has said she does not believe LinkedIn has done enough to stop sexual advances being made on their platform.
She said: ‘LinkedIn needs to do more to help users report comments not just block people, some of the things that have been said to me like I’m “flat-chested, and look trans” could be triggering for others, not just me.’
Ms Thomas said these types of sexual advances have been seen before in the case of Charlotte Proudman, who accused a lawyer of using LinkedIn ‘like Tinder’ after he commented on her profile picture.
Ms Thomas tweeted in response to LinkedIn: ‘I think you need to try and do better than give it lip service- my post has had over 1.6 million views – resonating with so many different women.’