“How important it is for us to recognize our Heroes and She-roes” Maya Angelou
I am bothered by how many allegations are surfacing of mistreatment of women by men. It is truly disturbing.
Gender equality issues have personally always somewhat puzzled me. I have never understood why there should or would be any difference between men and women. I am sure for me; this is because I grew up in a single parent family. If you wanted or needed something done you did it, regardless of your gender. My mother was raising four of us on her own, and she didn’t stop to think about who was going to help her move the furniture around, she just did it herself. Even into her eighties, I would go over to her place and see that the furniture was rearranged.
“Who helped you do this?”
“Me, myself and I”.
“You know you could ask for help?”
“If I needed help I would ask for it, I have two hands and I am perfectly capable”.
But gender inequality in the world and workplace, is unfortunately a very real thing.
I have to admit during my long career, I have been fortunate unlike many women. Thinking about my work experiences, a few things come to mind. The only times that I ever felt that a man in my workplace was bordering on inappropriate or disrespect of any kind, I was fortunate enough to have a gentlemen around that intervened.
One time was very early on in my career, I was at a Christmas party and one of the younger partners had a few too many to drink. He started to get a little flirty and within minutes, I noticed my boss who was a middle aged gentleman take him aside and have a little chat. From that point on that Partner blushed whenever he was within feet of me. He never said a word, and I can only assume that he was confronted about his behavior.
The next time was later on in my career. I would occasionally be required to visit a site location. Regardless of whether my Manager was required to be there or not, he insisted on flying up to site with me. On one such occasion, a bus driver was a little too chatty and when we dismounted the bus my Manager turned to me and said, I did not like the way that the bus driver was behaving and I would like for you please to stay by my side while we are here. I chuckled, but he looked at me and said there are a lot of people here and some might be unpredictable. Always a gentlemen, I knew that he was serious and I had better heed his words. He was not comfortable sending me into an environment that he was not sure would be safe. Looking back, I really appreciate that about him.
On the other hand, I had one of the most disturbing experiences of my career working with a large group of women. I was sent down to a remote office of a firm that was working for the Client. My Manager had asked me to go down and see what was going on with moral at this location. There were high incidences of sick days, and there seemed to be a real problem with moral.
I went to the location, and was not even there a day before many of the women were coming forward with allegations that the female leadership team of three was threatening their jobs, bullying and belittling them. There were also a few that came forward saying that the Engineers were making sexually inappropriate comments to them. I asked if they had involved their HR group. They responded that yes they had, but were not being taken seriously. They had been told from the HR group to wear a ring on their finger, if they didn’t want inappropriate comments made to them.
I was very saddened and taken aback by all that I was hearing. All in all, sixteen women came forward to talk to me about their experiences.
I spoke with my Manager about what I had found and we determined that the best course of action was for me to find the people a conduit within their HR group. So I booked a meeting with a Senior HR person, and told them that there appeared to be a real problem with Management of the group. I asked for a dedicated individual from the HR group, for their employees to discuss the issues that they were bringing forward. I then told them that the Client was expecting a response with regards to the action plan. We didn’t want for them to think it was just an internal company problem that they could gloss over, but that the Client was expecting to know what the results were.
I provided the contact information to the people, and headed back to my main location. The next day the HR group had received 16 formal complaints from their employees. It was determined that two of the female leaders were in fact bullying their employees and they were let go. I was told later, that one of them said that if she saw me on the street she would run me down in her car. I can only assume that they were told that I approached the HR group, which in itself is troubling.
The whole incident was so disconcerting to me. It disturbed me for a very long time. I could not fathom, and still cannot fathom how any of this could be okay. And I was taken aback that women were demeaning and holding back the careers of the women that they were supposed to be coaching and mentoring. It was just so very foreign to me, and extremely upsetting.
As a Leader, I was always conscious of pay being based on merit and having nothing whatsoever to do with gender. And the Golden rule of always treating others, the way that you would want to be treated yourself has always been important to me.
And so, as more and more voices are being heard about inappropriate behavior, I hope that we don’t allow the problem to be swept under the rug, but that we use the momentum to stand together and speak out.
That we as females ensure that we are supporting our sisters always, and in all ways! And that the Gentlemen use their voices to speak out as well in support of us!
Hats off to the Heroes and She-Roes that create change!