Before I hit “send” on the type of email that 99.9999% of the time you should not send, I shared it first with my new boss.
Within minutes the office phone rang. “Come see me please,” he said.
My boss looked me in the eye and expressed with stern lips, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I’ve counted the cost.” It’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
He nods, “Ok. Good luck.”
I proceeded to send the email to the head of the company and Human Resources.
I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the #MeToo movement. The experience I describe took place a long time ago, way before #MeToo.
Once upon a time I spent over a decade in the corporate world. It was clear that some men abused power or said whatever crude thing they wanted with little consequence. I wondered why I was told as an adolescent that girls can do anything we set our mind to do, but once I was in the business world somehow, I, a woman, often felt “less than” or “used” in some way.
There were many examples. I entered a meeting where a client raised an eyebrow and said to the men with me, “Well, I’ll sign the contract since you brought this.” I was a this? One year I spent every work day at 5pm being critiqued by a boss for my performance beginning with how my hair, clothes, and makeup looked that day. A year. Every day. He thought he was helping me function in a man’s world–that’s what he called his pacing and instructing while I sat wanting to go home.
I’ll spare you the long and varied list of inappropriate moments. Not all men behaved this way. Men who were spiritual or had a personal growth mindset were respectful.
Back to the email sent with no turning back. Times were tricky. An executive woman had been fired and then settled a lawsuit. I knew those in charge were on edge. I had asked for months to increase pay for my staff as well as provide equal pay for males and females. My request had been dismissed multiple times. It bothered me when females with similar qualifications were hired for less salary than a man for the same job.
So, I wrote key bullet points of concern and asked to meet with the head of the company and HR every Friday at 1pm for about 20 minutes.
“What do you want?!” The head of the company bellowed at the first meeting. He had invited another male executive who was known to be threatening. I knew first hand because he had threatened my family the year prior when I pointed out something else unethical. Specifically, “It would be a shame if your boys grow up without a mother.” The Holy Spirit reminded me of David and Goliath. I wasn’t afraid. The HR representative brought two pens and a yellow writing pad.
“I want to discuss an example or two each week of things that have been said or done that involve discrimination. I believe our company can treat people better. Twenty minutes each Friday should do it. I believe we can work together for healthy change.”
“For how many Fridays?” his nostrils flared with suspicion.
“As long as it takes.”
And so, we began. I brought weekly succinct topics or situations and explained why you can’t say this or that about women, or make fun of people in general, or discriminate against minorities–conscious or unconscious.
Outside of these meetings, a nervousness grew in the boardroom. The leadership group said cursing was no longer permitted. Jokes were shut down with side-eye looks before punchlines arrived. My department’s pay raise was approved after six Fridays.
I think the men began wondering what in the world I planned to say next each week. Eventually I offered an ending, “I think we’ve covered what needed to be said.”
HR put down her pen. The threatening guy yawned. The head of the company snorted relief. We almost had become comfortable in the muck.
That was a time and place where I chose to go uphill alone after deciding I could accept potential negative repercussions. One thing I like about #MeToo is that people are saying you are not alone when discrimination happens.
With or without such a movement, God gave us road maps in the Bible to address wrongs peacefully. Actions are not to be taken lightly. Here are steps I followed:
- Consult scripture. [Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1]
- Go to the person directly. I had with no progress. That’s why I moved on to request the Friday meetings with HR present.
- Seek wisdom and/or wise counsel.
- Think about timing. My guess was it was a time when the head of the company would listen to me whether he liked what I had to say or not.
- Consider chain of command. My new boss learned my intentions from me first. I had reason to believe based on his professional behavior that he would be supportive.
- Count the costs. I remember thinking of the best and worst scenarios that could happen and accepted in advance that the outcome could be good, bad, or something I couldn’t imagine yet.
Down the road after the head of the company left the organization and later I had too, I saw him one more time. He wanted me to work on a project with him. I asked why would he want me to do that? His answer, “Because you taught me about love.”
I didn’t see that coming. But it made sense. God is love.