Assuming you’ve listened to previous episodes, you probably know I don’t like to focus on problems because I’m more interested in solutions. I’m an eternal optimist who believes everything works out the way it’s supposed to. I look for the best in everyone. I don’t hold grudges. I treat everyone with kindness without losing sight of my boundaries. I do understand that not all people do the same.
With this podcast, I like to keep things light. I do have a bit of a tough love approach at times, but it’s always from a place of wanting to help. I talk about serious business topics but I’m not exactly controversial in my opinions. I stay out of debates and respect that people have the right to make their own choices, even if they don’t agree with mine. Some might say that’s playing it safe, but I’m not into the drama. It’s not my place to change people’s opinions. When I speak about business, I’m speaking from experience. And I give a lot of disclaimers that my way might not work for everyone because we’re all so different.
But when it comes to how people, especially women, are treated, I don’t think it’s so subjective. There’s right and there’s wrong. It shouldn’t be controversial. But I don’t know why, especially in recent years when there’s been so much momentum, we’re still so far behind where we should be.
I realize that one thing I’ve enjoyed about not being on a set in the past year and a half is that I haven’t had to deal with people misbehaving in person. My first job back I was reminded that there are still so many issues with how women are treated, whether it’s being talked down to, expected to do certain tasks based on gender and not position, or being ogled or touched in uncomfortable ways. It’s not all men and it’s not on every job, but it’s happening far too often and I think we should talk about it.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about this recently and what I’m finding is that most women are still experiencing this, and that most men don’t realize it’s happening, even when they’re working at the same place. They don’t think it’s an ongoing problem because they’re just not aware. I think part of this is because they don’t pay attention. I don’t even mean that as a criticism. It’s more that they’re focused on their own job and not looking at what everyone else is doing. Also, the offenders are usually smart enough to know they can’t act inappropriately when others are around to witness it. And some of them sadly don’t realize when what they’re doing is inappropriate or making someone else uncomfortable. The lack of awareness is an issue in itself.
Based on a collection of stories from women I’ve talked to, here are some of the many things we shouldn’t have to deal with, but for some reason still are. These scenarios have all happened within the last year, so I’m not talking about the way things used to be. I’m talking about how they are now.
We shouldn’t have to wear baggy clothes in hopes it will cover our figures so men don’t gawk while they talk to us or watch us walk by.
We shouldn’t have to do our best to be “one of the guys” so we don’t attract the wrong attention.
We shouldn’t have to get our friends to help us leave safely because we’re afraid someone is going to follow us home or back to our hotel.
We shouldn’t have to worry that being nice, or professional, is an invitation for bad behavior.
We shouldn’t have to explain why we don’t want to hug you. Even if you saw us hugging someone else, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to one yourself.
We shouldn’t have to hear that we’re overreacting or reading too much into a behavior. If we’re uncomfortable, any reaction we have is valid.
We shouldn’t have to walk the other direction when we see someone coming because we don’t want him to stare, or touch us, or smell us, or whatever other weird thing he does that we’d rather avoid.
We shouldn’t have to ask men to stop talking down to us, talking over us, or otherwise trying to assert power where it doesn’t belong. Give us the same respect we give you, or the same respect you’d give a man in our position.
We shouldn’t have to worry that an invitation to a “group” dinner is actually an attempt to get us alone somewhere.
We shouldn’t be expected to answer phones, get coffee, order lunch, clean the office, or anything else that isn’t part of our job description solely because we are women. Men are capable of doing all of these things, too.
We shouldn’t get texts out of the blue with inappropriate pictures or suggestive comments.
We shouldn’t have to be rescued by other people on the crew because we’ve been literally cornered by someone and can’t escape. But we are glad those other people walked in when they did.
We shouldn’t be excluded from company gatherings because we don’t golf or smoke cigars, or at least you assume we don’t. We don’t have to do those things to participate in conversations and comradery and we shouldn’t miss out on opportunities and promotions because we weren’t invited.
We shouldn’t have to tell you to not touch us. It doesn’t matter where or how. Just don’t touch us.
We shouldn’t be flagged as difficult because we spoke up when something wrong was happening.
We shouldn’t have to ignore these things because speaking up about them could put our jobs in jeopardy.
We shouldn’t have to talk about the time we got fired because the man who continued to misbehave, even after being asked not to multiple times, was deemed too important so the options were to deal with it or be removed from the situation.
These last two play a large role in why more women don’t speak up. This is often happening in the middle of a project where there is too much to get done in a short period of time. Saying something could interfere with the necessary progress. It could put extra stress on other people. It could change the working dynamic in a way that causes more issues and could negatively affect the project, the company, or the client. We don’t want to cause problems. We just want to do our work and feel safe doing it.
But we aren’t causing problems when these situations are happening to us. We are not asking for it. We do not deserve it. We shouldn’t need to lighten up or stop being so uptight or just accept that this is the nature of the business. It is not.
Sometimes it’s not a coworker acting this way, it’s the client. And then what are we supposed to do? The client isn’t going to be asked to leave his own project. He’s not going to be let go for inappropriate behavior. We are the ones who will suffer the repercussions. Or we just have to suck it up and accept that it’s going to continue to happen, and that’s not okay.
I don’t want to hear these stories anymore. I don’t want to tell these stories anymore. I want this behavior to stop.
We need to feel safe speaking up when these things happen. We need to be heard and we need people to take action. There’s that whole idea of see something, say something. We need that. We need more people to open their eyes. We need people to listen to us when we tell them these things are happening. We need people to be more aware of what’s going on around them. We need men to consider how their actions affect us and understand that, even if their intentions aren’t ill-natured, their actions might be interpreted differently.
There are plenty of good guys, nice guys, allies, out there. We see you and we appreciate you. But for the ones who don’t think what they’re doing is wrong, there’s still a lot of work to be done.