Well, the past couple of weeks seem to have been all-Harvey-Weinstein-all-the-time. Yuck. When I’ve gotten together with my girlfriends since the news broke, each of us has shared our “powerful man made a pass at me at work” story.
Him: A “name” you would know, from finance and government. Let's call him Mr. X. (Wonder why I'm not naming him? Read more below.)
Me: At the time I was the Director of Research at Sanford C. Bernstein.
Location: Bernstein’s big research conference, which was my responsibility. Mr. X was the luncheon keynote speaker.
The setting: After he had spoken and the room had mostly cleared, I went over to thank him.
His response: He invited me to his hotel room, while sticking out his tongue and wiggling it at me. While making a sort of weird guttural noise. I guess it was supposed to be sexy. I got out of there as quickly as I could and fake-laughed in front of my colleagues who saw it, as a means of hiding my embarrassment.
Now this is different from many of the stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein or venture capitalists or the crew at Fox because I never felt threatened or compromised.
Weirded out, yes. A bit confused, maybe. Gobsmacked, certainly. “Mr. X? Really? Who would have guessed??” But not threatened. Infuriatingly, this wasn't my first time being harassed at work; much earlier in my career, I had daily photocopies of male genitalia left on my desk. (Thankfully, those days were long behind me.) Still, it's unsettling — maybe in a different way — when someone is comfortable acting sexually inappropriate to your face...in front of other people.
(Every once in a while over the years, I ask one of the guys who was standing close-enough-to-hear-the-whole-thing: “Did Mr. X, world-renowned financier, really wiggle his tongue at me and make a guttural noise? Or was that some fevered dream?” Answer: “Yes. Yes, he did.”)
Some years later, I’m working at Citi, and this same big-deal-guy is up for a job there. One of those cushy ones that famous people used to get, with the big office, access to the private jet and very few responsibilities, except for glad-handing VIP clients.
I scheduled time with the company’s CEO and told him that I was against the hire and described this guy's inappropriate behavior. When the CEO “tried to reason with me” and told me that perhaps I had misunderstood, I told him that I would quit...and not quietly...if this jerk was brought on because I would feel like we were knowingly bringing in a potential predator (and, for sure, a creep).
So Mr. X likely doesn't know it, but his inappropriate, creepy, skin-crawling pass cost him that job. And it cost him big time.
Why am I not naming him?
I’ve thought long and hard about that question. Each of us has to make our own decision about something like this. My decision is not to, since the power dynamic was not tilted as dramatically in his favor as with Harvey Weinstein, and so I was not in a compromised position. And his actions toward me cost him a lot of money.
Because of good luck, timing, my years of hard, hard work
and — it has to be acknowledged — some of the hurdles I bypassed being a white woman on Wall Street, this guy lost millions of dollars on an opportunity because I was able to say no. And he hasn’t been in the same high-level position to intimidate women since that time.
I recognize how (incredibly) fortunate I was that the balance of power was in my favor, and that I had a boss who would (after a bit of debate) listen to me.
Women are today finding power in calling these predators out publicly and in amplifying and supporting each other when we do. This is why I'm so focused on the issues of women and money — and getting more money to more women — because at its heart, for us this is all about power, freedom, and being able to say, “take this job and shove it.” I want all of us to have more power.
Something is shifting, and it’s important. As Kate McKinnon’s character said on this week’s Saturday Night Live
, “Pandora’s box is open, and Pandora’s pissed.”