Why Women Stay Silent So Long
By Karetta Hubbard, Lynne Revo-Cohen, Chris Kilmartin, and Gwen Crider
Imagine it is 8:45 am. You just picked up your latte at Starbucks and begin the five-minute walk to your office. Today should be a great day. Finally, you have earned the right to lead the meeting. No more second banana. One of the most important purchasers of your firm’s products will be waiting for you to strut your stuff, and buy. This could be a large boon for the firm.
A quick glance in the mirror tells the story: the blue-grey dress matches the dark blue pumps which matches the grey purse. Your hair could be a little less frizzy, but still looks good. Your face however, belies the truth. Dread, fear, apprehension create knots in your stomach, anguish furrows your brow. You just received a text from The Boss. He wants to “brief” you on the client history before the meeting begins. It is not a suggestion. His briefings are always behind closed doors.
You knock, he says, “come in.” The door closes too quickly. You look away as he smiles and asks you to take a seat next to him. Throne chairs sit side by side and he waves you down. The tone is always the same, modulated; the toothy smile splitting his face in half. “Big day today, I hope your weekend was rewarding? By the way, my massage offer still stands. I want you relaxed for this meeting.” “Not again,” she thinks, as he stands and places his hands on her shoulders. The corners of his mouth turn up, creating a jack-o-lantern; his eyes burning brighter. She can’t wait for the briefing to be over.
Imagine it is 1:00pm, the same day. “High Five’s Kiddo!” Kudos from the other attendees. The customer ordered double the product. And, you are still thinking about the Boss. What if I confront him? No! It would be suicide for my career. I could be fired. Might be classic, “he said, she said”; no one would believe me and I would be the loser.
Does this situation, or a similar one, sound familiar? All too often the phrase heard is: “Why did she or he wait so long to come forward?” The answer is as complicated as each situation. Some women or men are embarrassed, others ashamed, many doubt themselves. Importantly, they fear retaliation, or think they won’t be believed; mostly they don’t want to hurt the harasser (they just want the behavior to stop). Some women or men, need time to process their experience, question their own judgment, and figure out how not to blame themselves.
Imagine it is 7:00 pm. Conversations take place in your head, telling him what you think of his behavior, peppered with not so savory phrases.
Imagine it is 9:00 am the next day. Latte in hand, you knock on the boss’s door; he smiles and says come in. You close the door behind you….
Do you know what YOU would say?
Next Week we will give advice about what to say to a harassing boss.
Since 1984 the founders of NewPoint Strategies, Karetta Hubbard and Lynne Revo-Cohen, have built a strong reputation for delivering extremely effective prevention training in high-risk issues such as sexual harassment/assault. Contributing Author and Lead Consultant, Chris Kilmartin, Ph.D, Emeritus Professor of Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, is an expert in Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention, specifically Male Violence Against Women. Gwen Crider is a Diversity Expert.