It is not easy to come out against sexual harassment, and I commend all of the brave women who have recently recounted their experiences. Greenwich’s very own Gretchen Carlson has been leading the charge in helping women to have a voice, to be fierce and to have a plan for dealing with it in the workplace. (Not to forget men, too, who may be the victim of the same workplace behavior from women.) I am so happy to see that there is finally a national dialogue on this subject. I have no doubt that many of you who read this blog have experienced it as well.
I first saw this type of behavior when I worked in advertising, prior to starting The Well Appointed House. I had a Creative Director at one of the large, well-known agencies I worked for who would ask me to wear skirts to new business pitches (with high level pharmaceutical company executives) that would “show off my legs”. (As if this would help us win these huge accounts). I was astounded that objectifying comments like this were still being made to young women in the late 90’s. Knowing that my mother had lived through the Gloria Steinem era, I had hoped and assumed that things would be different for my generation. Those comments and others like that were nothing compared to what I experienced at a finance firm in NYC, where as a young twenty-something, I was sexually harassed by my boss. At that time, the firm had a known culture of bringing in young women in their early to mid 20’s for what seemed to me to be the entertainment of senior level male executives. This details wouldn’t be appropriate for this blog , but I was horrified and went to Human Resources, reported what had been going on and left the job. This atmosphere was condoned and encouraged from the very top down. I could see that the example being set from above gave my boss the feeling that his behaviors were OK. My experience there stayed with me for years as I was sad to leave a job sooner than I had ever planned due to being targeted by a superior that way. Memories of this experience have come to mind so many times as I have watched the recent news unfolding with sexual harassment becoming a pressing national issues. I have been very open about my experiences at that firm – with friends who worked there at the time, and with my own friends and family over the years. This was nothing that I kept to myself. Over the past two years, assaults of young women on college campuses around the country has been another topic of conversation. I had a number of interns who worked with me this past summer and stories I heard from them of situations with friends and acquaintances of theirs at campuses around the country and on travel abroad was deeply troubling. I am concerned to see the place we are still in as a country with regard to treatment of women and girls on so many levels. This is a national problem that needs fixing. I can’t say how happy I am that this is getting the media coverage that it is. I am sure that countless readers of this blog have had similar experiences. Perhaps some of you haven’t and you should consider yourself lucky. We as people (men and women alike) need to stand up and say that these behaviors are unacceptable. I look forward to working to teach my daughters and son to know how to be respectful of each other in the workplace and to educate them on what is right and wrong.
My next commentary here is relating to a local election taking place here in my town of Greenwich, CT tomorrow. I was pleased to find out that a number of local women (many are moms with kids like me) were running for a position in town called the RTM (Representative Town Meeting – here are the candidates by district). After years and years with 70% men overseeing this board, somewhere around 50 women are ready for change and now running for the position. A local and known cyber-bully blogger here in Greenwich has urged readers of his blog to boycott all women in the election. His comments have also attracted national attention – you can read about it here on the VOGUE website. It’s disappointing to see such overt and open harassment and degradation of women even in my own town, posted online. We all have varying political associations but broad bullying like this of all women in an election is unacceptable.