Are you exhausted? We’re exhausted.
Asking ourselves, what’s the point, when every day feels like Groundhog Harassment Day. The rotation of recordings. Men saying nasty shit. You don’t want to listen, but you press play anyway. And you shudder when you think about all of the one-sided conversations you’ve had that sound just. like. that.
Is your head on your desk? Are you thinking about the times in your youth that someone harassed you and you said nothing. Are you angry at yourself for being too young or too scared to speak up. Mad for not knowing. Mad for knowing better and turning the other cheek anyway. Only to have it grabbed. Are you wondering, did you need that job that much. Did you stay on board for the health insurance. The financial security. Did you laugh it all off because that's how you showed up the next day. And the next.
Are you wondering how much of yourself you've sacrificed for your career. How many other women have you sacrificed in the process as well. Are you thinking about the story your friend told you about her boss that referred to all female clients as cunts. Or the boss who said he’d love to take you to dinner to talk about your future at the company. The one who wanted to photograph you. Who needed you to come over late at night. Or the male colleague who got you fired when he found out you made more money than him.
The news cycle about the allegations of rape and harassment against Harvey Weinstein are exhausting. It's likely bringing up years of shit you haven't thought about. Microaggressions. Maybe macro ones.
We're just like you today. We don't want to read anymore, but we can't look away. We see ourselves in these stories and we keep wondering who will speak up next now that the gates have opened?
It's OK to feel down. To feel exhausted. To wonder what's the point.
Harvey Weinstein wanted Ambra Battilana Gutierrez to stay for five minutes. We want five minutes of peace.
So what's to be done?
Even though one in four women in the United States report experiencing sexism in the workplace, many incidents go unreported. Women fear losing their jobs, being seen as difficult, or think that a lawsuit will prevent them from securing another position. Women in high-level positions don't report harassment, especially when they work for larger companies, because they don't want the information to go public. Similarly, large corporations often settle in mediation to avoid the public shaming of the company name. Some companies have employees sign arbitration agreements upon hiring so that any future legal matters are handled privately.
So what are the best ways to handle and deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace?
SHOULD YOU CONFRONT THE PERP?
It's not your responsibility to school employees. Or teach anyone a lesson. But if you think standing up for yourself is the right move and shows that you can stand your ground professionally and personally, one of the best approaches is to ask the harasser to repeat what they said. The act of making someone repeat and joke or a comment and making clear that you don't find it funny is enough to make it stop. There are some fires that can be put out without dragging your boss into the mix. If confronting the situation head-on is not working, it's time to take next steps.
KEEP A LOG
If you are experiencing overt or subtle sexism in the workplace and you know a conversation or confrontation will only make it worse, start tracking it. There are jokes, comments about co-workers' appearances, and more that offend some and not others. If you are experiencing workplace fodder, harassment, or more, that makes you uncomfortable, you don't have to lie to kick it with your co-workers. Meaning: don't let the peer office pressure of being the one employee who doesn't find it funny stop you from tracking incidents. The sexual harassment suits that are taken the most seriously are those with the most data.
BEING AFRAID TO REPORT IT IS OK. BUT REPORT IT.
Report it to a supervisor you trust. If you work for a company that is large enough to have an HR department, take it to them. We know this is scary and that you're worried about losing your job. But ask yourself two very important questions: 1. Is any job worth feeling that uncomfortable? 2. Do you want to work for a company that doesn't take harassment complaints seriously? If they are willing to overlook and dismiss concerns of this nature, you can be sure that they do not value you as an employee.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'RE STONEWALLED?
The reality is, many women who work in both the private and public sector have experienced sexism in the workplace. Part of the issue is that all companies outwardly profess support of women in the workplace as well as a zero tolerance policies regarding sexual harassment and discrimination. Behind closed company doors, it's a little different. If your concerns are going unaddressed and there are no disciplinary actions taken, it's time to talk to an attorney. An employer may be held liable for the conduct of the employee if the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s conduct and failed to take prompt remedial actions. The complaint should be made in person and in writing, and you should keep a copy of for your own records. In the complaint use the log you've created to state specific acts and dates and what effects the harassment is having on your job performance.
Note: states have varying time limits on how far from the date of incident the lawsuit can be filled. You will also need to file with the Federal Government. You have three hundred days to do this. Most lawyers' fees come from a percent of your settlement or verdict.
For more information on sexual harassment visit the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission to read the Policy Guidance Documents Related to Sexual Harassment.