'Me Too': Would I do things differently?
In light of the Harvey Weinstein situation I feel it’s my duty to share my story to see if I can help anyone who might be going through a similar experience.
While the Weinstein case is shocking to some it’s all too familiar to many. Although words like ‘Me Too’ may resonate for some, the majority of people don’t understand the difficulties these situations present. Many times women feel too trapped by their circumstances and don’t have the luxury to take a stand.
My story, while somewhat dated (going back to the late 80s) offers an explanation for why we sometimes feel forced to tolerate unfair discrimination and sexism. I was “laid off” by my employer for becoming pregnant. Long story but an attorney confirmed that I had a good case, however I was told that due to the backlog of cases with MCAD (MA Commission Against Discrimination) it would be at least three years before my case would be heard. My attorney said I had two choices. Sign the severance agreement, take the payoff and get on with my life. Or, I could hold up moving forward with my life for several years with no guarantees that in the end I would win. Additionally, I would lose the severance (a three-month cushion while I search for a new job), and an employment reference. I was young, new to corporate life and unsure of my future prospects. In short, I felt trapped. As much as I wanted to take a stand I made the very difficult decision not to pursue the case, instead I chose to secure my future.
I like to think I would handle the situation differently today especially if I had the resources of the internet to find the support that could help me sort through all of the confusing options. And I often think about whether I would have done things differently now at this stage of my life as a more seasoned professional. I consider myself a highly principled person and, by nature, I am a fighter (my Dad used to tease me about my “strong constitution”). I have, during the course of my personal/professional life, advocated for what’s right and identified and worked to fix things that were broken.
I’ve been out of the corporate world for a while, however I continue to hear stories of sexism in the workplace. While it’s a little disheartening to see such slow progress being made in terms of the kind of accountability that leads to change, I sense the tide is turning as evidenced by the increase in the number of brave women speaking out against Weinstein. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic that as more and more cases are spotlighted with Cretans like Weinstein, Cosby and Ayles being called out for their despicable behavior and we continue to support one another (women and men), this unnecessary behavior which is such a waste of time and energy, will be extinguished.
In the meantime here’s my advice. Don’t allow fear of the unknown to lead you to conclude you have to sacrifice your beliefs and principles. You may not get a second chance to stand up for your rights and contribute to a better world for others. And, you never know where your new situation might lead but you will always be proud that you took a stand and it will become part of your ongoing story which can be so meaningful. Secondly, it’s really true what they say – it doesn’t matter how many times you fall off the horse, it’s that you get back in the saddle.
If you want to read more stories about brave women speaking out on the topic of sexism in the workplace read this article Ellen Pao in Fast Company magazine.