graphic for The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR Tech

 

photo of red leather chair on hrexaminer.com article February 17, 2015 from Heather Bussing on sexual harrassment

I still regularly have conversations with men who have no clue about what it’s like to move through the world in a smaller, weaker body, to be constantly alert to threats, sexual predators, and captors.

Now that I have grey hair, the lawyers at the courthouse have finally stopped calling me kiddo.

I’ll never forget being 30 years old and going to a meeting on the 13th floor of a huge law firm in LA. I was the only woman there. It was a multi billion dollar deal and there were 20 attorneys there, many of them who had arrived from New York the day before and rented Bentleys to drive around Hollywood in.

The conference room was a star chamber with a 30 foot long table and seats that were giant thrones. My feet could not touch the floor. If I slid in so I could rest on the back of the chair, I could not bend my knees. So I had to perch on the front edge, dangling my pumps 4 inches from the carpet. The thrones were so heavy I could not get in or out of my seat without help.

After a couple hours, I need to use the bathroom, but I couldn’t move the chair. I considered trying to climb out, but there were guys in the thrones on either side of me. And my skirt was a little short to go scrambling over the armrest.

So I asked the lawyer sitting next to me for help. He thought it was hilarious. I then spent the next 15 minutes completely mortified while the men at the table laughed and discussed who would get to take me home that night since I was stuck there.

At one point a partner across the table from me turned to his associate and said: You’ve been working hard, you deserve a bonus. They laughed.

He thought a moment and said: She’s pretty cute though, I should probably keep her for myself. More laughter. Then he turned to me and winked: See? I saved you. You should thank me. . ..  Chuckles all around.

I couldn’t even slide under the table and crawl out because I was scooched in too tight.

I was trapped, and scared, and it did not feel like they were joking. Because they weren’t. Not really.

I finally looked the senior partner in the eye and told him I was going to pee all over his throne. He made some comment about getting in trouble with the office manager and ordered two associates to pull my chair out.

There were more jokes about how disappointed they were that I got out.

I made it to the bathroom, hid in the stall and cried. I splashed water on my face to make my red puffy eyes stop swelling and waited as long as I thought I could get away with.

When I came back into the room, no one noticed. Nobody cared what I had missed. I was a woman and an associate, an accessory, but unnecessary for the men to do the deal.

I still regularly have conversations with men who have no clue about what it’s like to move through the world in a smaller, weaker body, to be constantly alert to threats, sexual predators, and captors. Men don’t understand that when a woman has sex, she is allowing the man inside her body, submitting to a physical invasion. There is no more vulnerable time for a woman, to be so open and exposed.

And that is why sexual harassment is not funny, why sexual violence is not entertainment, and why often men still have no clue what they are doing in their relationships with woman, especially at work.

graphic for The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR


 
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