I began my first full time job in banking right after college. I was 21. It wasn’t my dream job, but I was good at it and I enjoyed it. I struggled with fitting in, especially because I was so young compared to my co-workers. I kept to myself a lot because to be frank, it was a sad period of my life. I tried to accept the culture as is. That include accepting Jimmy. Jimmy was almost twice my age and came from the auto industry. He had dog eat dog business practices which were very new to me. His character was comprised of car dealership sense of humor and entitlement. He often made sexual comments, in group settings and behind closed doors. On many occasions his comments were directed toward me and it made me uncomfortable every time he would mention my lips or my size. However, he had been with the company much longer than I had so I didn’t want to cause any trouble, I just wanted to keep my job, so I didn’t say anything. Eventually, Jimmy left. The work environment improved and I went on with my career with the firm. A few months later, I was sitting in my boss’ office and he mentioned improving the work environment. I casually made a remark about Jimmy’s impact on the environment. He was shocked. Even though Jimmy made these comments and advances directed to multiple people and even though multiple people witnessed his actions, no one informed our boss. My boss asked me why I never said anything. I told him, I was new and I didn’t want to lose my job. He looked me in my eye and told me to ALWAYS speak up. At that moment, I felt disappointed in myself. I knew better. I knew to say something, but I let someone who was in the wrong silence my voice. I vowed to never accept sexual harassment again.
I think as women, especially working and interacting in male dominated fields, we accept comments and behaviors that make us uncomfortable as “part of the job.” We don’t want to be the “girl in the room” that silences the usual conversations. We want to be invited to the golf course and to join in on cigars. So we put on our big girl pants and check our emotions at the door. Never realizing that we are not only doing a disservice to ourselves but also a disservice to our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, and every other female that finds inspiration in us. Being silent helps no one. It prevents growth and advancement because the environment more than likely will not change and if it happens to change there is nothing preventing it to revert back. If we don’t speak up, our male counterparts are not encouraged to do so either. Also, it adds more stress on women in the work place. It is okay to shake the table, especially if it helps to make a better tomorrow. DO NOT be silent.