She who shares her story of…
Holding onto Shame.
I have often been told I have a face that lights up the room when I enter. A face that should be painted. One of an angel. I also have other qualities like intelligence, strength, and confidence. I haven’t heard them as often as I have about my pretty face.
I am now a partner in a very large and well respected law firm. A very male-dominated law firm. I have worked my way to the top. I should be sitting up here proud of my pathway to this position.
I hold stories of shame within my heart.
My career path started with shame about my appearances because I experienced the bias of people believing that if you are too beautiful, then you must be a “dumb blonde”. I spent so much of my working life doing more than any of my male colleagues so that I could demonstrate I had a brain that I knew how to use.
The shame continued as I moved through the perception of not being competent, but now into a world of being seen more by the men I worked with. Being still young and beautiful…and wanting desperately to advance in my career, I was often put in a position where I felt I had to let my manager place his hand on my thigh. Or to push up against me as he would reach from behind for any object over my shoulder in the busy lunchroom. Or let him kiss my neck at the office party after he whispered in my ear that he was staying in a hotel that evening in town.
I stayed at a hotel that evening in town.
I know I reached the role of partner because I am competent and capable and the best person for the job. I know from the faces of others I work with that they don’t feel the same and think there are other reasons that I was made the offer. I know what he did wasn’t right. I know from their faces they would think I enjoyed it. I know he shouldn’t be allowed to put others in that same position. I know from their faces…that one day he will.
Stereotypes are an oversimplified and overgeneralised belief about a particular group of people. It is an expectation on what people are like and what traits and behaviours are expected of them and / or considered appropriate. Stereotyping can be contributing and underlying factors in negative behaviors.
Sexual harassment in fields traditionally dominated by men is widespread and common. Reports estimate that 30 to 40 percent of women workers experience sexual harassment by men in the workplace, with higher incidences found in traditionally male, hierarchical organizations where men hold the majority of positions of power.
Sexual harassment disproportionately affect women in the legal profession. Despite repeated recognition of the pervasive nature of the problem, as well as the implementation of rules prohibiting it, an alarming percentage of female lawyers have reported being sexually harassed, with many saying they were subject to unwelcome touching, objectification and repeated advances in the workplace or at social events.
In some male-dominated industries sexual harassment occurs in social areas for workers, such as a lunch room or has been witnessed by someone else working at the same business. Sexual harassment is widely unreported due to fear of retribution, loss of employment, loss of employment opportunities and further harassment. Sexual harassment can wreak havoc on its victims, and can cause not only mental health issues, but physical effects as well.
The Call to Action
Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in the workplace.
Businesses should strongly value diversity and inclusion and bring renewed focus and leadership to create a culture that respects all people, eliminates sexual harassment, and stands up, supports and cares for all those affected by unacceptable behaviour.
A diverse and inclusive workplace combats negative behaviors because it promotes empathy and breaks down stereotypes and prejudices.
Through inclusive leadership, we can develop workplaces that recognize and prevent sexual harassment and empower people to speak up and take action where behaviors do not meet expected standards.
Any “bystander” who witnesses misconduct must report it and not tolerate it. People who are in leadership positions must report wrongdoings where they see it. The conduct we walk past is the conduct that we condone. Your decision to do nothing could lead to someone experiencing an event that they will live with for the rest of their lives.