Though I do miss being out in the work force, the one thing that I do not miss is the sexual harassment, the sexism and the discrimination I experienced.
Mind you, I worked in the banking industry which is pretty much a breeding ground for all the above, but, when I think back at the things I put up with, it makes my blood boil and makes me hope that my daughter does not experience what I did.
Fresh out of college I got a job at a large bank in downtown Boston, supporting High Technology Commercial Lenders (mostly men) in the business of lending a lot of money to companies such as Digital, Polaroid, GTE and many others along the high-tech beltway on route 128.
I was one of two Administrative Assistants and my duties included going on Customer Calls with the lenders. It was a great job and I learned a lot about the industry.
As is the case in many jobs there was this ONE man who was very high-ranked who overtly expressed his power over everyone (including my boss) and his lack of dignity and obvious sexism. While he attended a conference call near my office with my boss and other lenders, he came out and sauntered over to my desk.
He flung $5 dollars on my desk and said, “Be a doll and get me a pack of cigarettes downstairs, will ya?” As he walked back into the conference room I sat there in shock. Soon, I found myself getting up from my desk, taking the elevator down to the lobby store and purchasing the cigarettes he had requested. Yes, I was fuming. You have no idea how much fuming was being had. But on the way back up the elevator I felt a sense of calmness. I somehow knew that I was going to let him have it. No matter his position, I was going to give him a piece of me (said my index finger making an imaginary z formation.)
I calmly walked over to the conference room, opened the door without knocking, did not concern myself with the voices that were on the other end of the conference call and walked over to where he was sitting. I slammed the cigarettes and change on the table and said, “Don’t you EVER, EVER ask me to get you cigarettes again, understand?” I calmly walked back to my desk and got back to work.
Well, little did I know that I would become famous in the entire building. First, my boss came running out to apologize to me for what had just happened. Then, for an entire week, employees of the bank came up to me to shake my hand and to tell me how proud they were of me. It was incredible! Finally, Mr. Nicotine himself (after being forced by HR) came to my desk and personally apologized for the way he treated me and assured me that it would never happen again.
Next “fun” experience, was a customer of the bank who when faced with my existence at his company for a meeting with the lender I supported, refused to conduct business. After walking in to the conference room and looking stunned that I (a woman) was in attendance, he informed us that he would not discuss business in my presence and that I needed to leave the room. Shocked but confident that the lender would defend me immediately and let this customer know that this was not acceptable and that I would be remaining in the room, I stayed in my seat. Instead, the lender looked at me and asked me to wait in the waiting room. WHAT? Are you kidding me? Grrrrrrrr.
After transferring to another branch (same bank) in the town where Mr. Brickhouse and I had recently wed, I thought good things were ahead. I was older, more confident and was looking forward to working with a more laid back clientele.
Until one of the new lenders I supported (a woman this time) informed me that the worst part of the job was dealing with all the Puerto Ricans in the city and how scummy they all were. What? Could you repeat that, please? It actually was comical watching her *Sh** her pants as I informed her that I was Puerto Rican and that I took offense to everything she had just said. She gave me the classic, “Oh, I don’t have anything against Puerto Ricans, in fact I have a friend who has a girlfriend who has a friend whose sister is half Puerto Rican and her name is Maria and she’s really nice.” *Cricket…*cricket…
Last on today’s list was the absolute worse experience I ever had. At this very same new office where Puerto Ricans were obviously warmly welcomed, my new boss turned out to be horrendous. Apparently, according to other employees, I was a replica of his wife, but a younger version, and someone HE was determined to seduce.
First, he asked me if I was planning on getting pregnant soon and told me how he hoped this was not the case since I had just transferred to his office and I needed to “give” him at least a year before popping out any rug rats.
When called into his office, he would often close the door. He would conduct business but would stop to ask me to put eye drops in his eyes while he reclined in his office chair, or would show me pictures of obese naked women he had taken at a show. He would discuss sex all the time, ask me how much I liked my husband and commented on my outfits.
I fought his every move. Soon the word around the bank was that he and I were an “item”. OMG. This upset me more than anything. The thought of other’s thinking that I was having an affair, and with this scum bag was killing me. I tried convincing people that this was not true but nobody believed me.
I immediately interviewed at another branch and got the job. The problem was that Scum Bag would NOT let me go. He insisted that I had given him a one year verbal commitment (with no popping of babies, of course) and that I needed to stay until I fulfilled my commitment. That was now three months away and I did not know how I was going to survive. He had power. He intimidated me and others. He succeeded in “keeping” me there until the three months had passed.
Please tell me that things have changed and improved since!?