Because this is the Lenten season and it is also the day following Equal Pay Day, it is time for me to share a confession. I used to be one of “those” women who cast down an eye on my female counterparts who expressed the importance of women’s rights. My firm belief was that we shouldn’t label initiatives for one group or another. That if I proved to be a worthy colleague and peer that I would be treated with dignity and respect…boy was I naïve.
I didn’t even appreciate my poor judgement until I was struck in the face with blatant harassment in the workplace. Even more, I did not understand the severity of it until I was completely removed from the situation. When I was provided with the opportunity to join the executive team of an advertising agency, I was through the roof…this was what I had worked tirelessly in my career to achieve. I brushed off the comments from a colleague and fellow executive who said to me upon my promotion “Now, you have to deal with my dirty comments because we are equals.” OK, I thought I’m part of the club where you crack disgusting jokes and talk nasty about others. I wanted so much to be there, I didn’t realize how wrong it was.
I wanted a seat at the table to talk about the goals for my team and how we can learn from each other during team building activities. I craved to develop the talent management and planning tool for my company. And I was proud to present at company meetings about the tremendous results we had accomplished. So, I ignored the comments about his “lack of concentration because” he was “staring into my eyes.” I overlooked his inappropriate comments and the texts he sent to me after a work party. I believed this is what I had to do to be a part of the leadership team.
So, I must confess, I was wrong. Very wrong. Women’s rights are important and degrading a colleague does not make them an equal. It actually demonstrates the lack of intellect and dignity from the person dishing out the comments.