It has been both comforting and chilling to see so many women sharing the status “Me too” on Twitter and Facebook. Here is my story.
As a woman who climbed the corporate ladder in banking in Denver, I know a little about sexual harassment and how some men use it to gain power over people.
I was working for a Canadian loan production office during a boom time in the oil and gas industry. Our bank financed two kinds of projects, large real estate developments and oil and gas exploration. I was the low man on the totem pole when it came to professional staff. At Christmas time, there are always lots of parties that bank officers are invited to attend. Since we worked with oil and gas companies, a lot of those parties were at the Petroleum Club.
One evening my boss and I decided to grab a quick meal downtown while waiting for the party at the Petroleum Club. This was pretty common practice for bankers, and was definitely not considered a date. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, my boss leaned across the table and said, “I want to fuck you.” I told him that he had a better chance of seeing God in the next 30 seconds.
That should have been the end of it, but the next time I came up for an employee appraisal, he wrote that it would be easier to train a monkey than it was to train me. Seeing the writing on the performance appraisal, I opted to find another employer. Fortunately I had lots of references who did not agree with this one man’s assessment.
I considered suing for sexual harassment, but decided that, for me, that was not the best decision. I still wanted to climb the corporate ladder, and getting a reputation as a “trouble maker” when all the corporate offices were manned by men would doom me. (See what I mean when I say it is about power? I allowed him to take my power away from me so that I could continue to eat regularly and live indoors.)
Fast forward a couple of months, and I was contacted by the Canadian bank’s attorney requesting an interview with me. The office manager had chosen a different route, and she was suing the bank for harassment. The attorney asked me if I had ever seen her being harassed. I told them that I had not, but that I could believe it happened, and then told him my story. The office manager settled for a six-figure amount in her suit against the bank–and this was over 30 years ago.
That isn’t the only story, but it is the only one I have with a happy ending.