I haven’t written a blog in quite awhile, unusual for me. In the past month or so I’ve realized that the whole #MeToo movement may have something to do with my silence.
From the beginning, I’ve been blown away by the courage of the women who shared their stories. But what could I add to this conversation? I’ve been working for more than 30 years, so #MeToo? Yes, sure. Duh.
There were some creeps along the way. And a few bosses who mishandled the scariest events — whether mine or my co-workers. I’m not ready to share the really gross stuff. But one fairly mundane experience still burns from the 80’s. A senior Tektronix boss reviewed the inappropriate, threatening and signed (!) notes I was receiving to comment, “You won’t make a big deal about this, will you? He’s really important in Finance.”
But so what? How do my experiences add to this conversation or help anyone? And if I write about the bad stuff will that offend my company’s clients? I’d never want that.
So in sharing the bad, I have to mention the good too. Ideagility serves as the marketing partner to construction, restoration and janitorial companies nationwide. We also serve professional associations, doctors and attorney firms. We work hard and we’re privileged to have built a successful business for over seven years.
Many of our business owners and clients are male. And to a man or woman, they’re pretty darn awesome. Smart, open to our recommendations and respectful of our team. I can say the same for most of the bosses I had early in my career—male or female. Frank Grady, Chairman Emeritus of Grady Britton, Marlys Weber, now retired, and Chris Smith, of Xerox and Portland Planning Commission, especially come to mind. These pros gave me opportunities when I was an entry-level employee with no college degree. Their generosity helped me to rocket into a high tech world that made my career.
I realized this morning, I do have something to contribute to this conversation: it’s my belief in and admiration for the next generation of women rising in their careers right behind me. My clients tell me I’m confident and outspoken, but I believed, as a young employee experiencing groping and a nonstop stream of inappropriate, sexual remarks that it simply must be my fault. In grade school, it seemed like the boys rarely got in trouble, only we girls were sent to the principal’s office. In one case I was told that I must have teased the guys or in some way caused the event. (I didn’t.) The Sunday School and Christian church activities for teens I experienced had a dose of the same ‘woman bad-can’t be trusted’ type message. I didn’t believe it. But for whatever reason, by the time I had an HR rep telling me that I needed to do ‘something’ different so that guys wouldn’t harass me, well, I had no idea what to do but I was in complete agreement.
I was talking about these issues with a professional from a generation younger than mine, a woman I admire. I asked her if she thought that issues of sexual harassment were at least partially the woman’s fault. She burst out laughing and her answer was succinct, “No. It was definitely all his fault.”
It was her confidence and lack of hesitation that surprised me most. Not all, but some of the earliest #MeToo voices came from this same generation. Today, a few of these professional women are on the cover of Time Magazine as Person of the Year, the SilenceBreakers (#TIMEPOY).
If we give them even half a chance, this generation of strong professionals will drive the change the world needs. Change won’t only impact issues of harassment in the workplace — I suspect that more representation in the Boardroom and better pay for women and minorities will quickly follow. And don’t be surprised, but when more diverse and creative minds are regularly given a seat at the table, then unpredictable, unexpected and quite wonderful things will surely follow. I say bring it on.