"Under Your Spell" - Working While Female In a World of Boys...

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"I was under the spell of that charm of yours..." 

One morning recently while on a business trip, I awoke in a hotel in a city in which I do not live. I squinted around for my phone to silence the alarm alerting me it was time to prepare for my flight home. 

I saw two missed calls, a new voicemail, and several text message notifications, all from the same number. I unlocked the phone to find the following text:

Text One

I did not respond.

I vacillated between wanting to write a scathing response and debating whether not acknowledging it at all left more of an impression. I eventually took the latter approach, and began packing up to leave.

Then, I received the follow-up:

"I was under the spell of that charm of yours." Apparently this was my doing.

Here are the facts, to the end that they answer any questions you may have about the situation:

  • After a series of business meetings, at which I met approximately 75 new people (65 of whom were men), the entire group attended a very nice reception.
  • When the reception wrapped up, early in the evening, a subset of the group (approximately 20 of us) decided to head to a nearby bar.
  • Three or four of us summoned Ubers to take the group over. Those of us ordering the cars decided to exchange phone numbers in case we got split up.
  • One of those men decided that, after a harmless evening of fun amongst colleagues, he should send me those messages, inviting me to his room and offering, as you can read above, those sexual advances.
  • I was dressed in jeans, sneakers and a modest top. I drank socially, took an Uber back to the hotel alone when I was ready for bed, and generally had had a pleasant, professional evening.

The messages and phone calls were from a man with whom I had had a handful conversations over the day and evening. First about our industry, and later about simple topics such as travels and hobbies.

As the night wore on, he asked if I was married; I responded that indeed I was, though I clearly wear both my engagement ring and wedding band in plain sight.

His response to my affirmative answer was, “Still?

It’s important to note that I also spoke to many others, none of whom decided it was appropriate to contact me in the middle of the night in that fashion.

Here are a few things that should be a given, but are not:

  • I should be able to give someone, male or female, my phone number without expecting that it opens a door to receive advances like that. Especially in a professional setting.
  • It actually shouldn’t matter whether I am married or not; if not prompted by a conversation in which romantic interest is stated, no woman should receive messages like that from a man. But we do, all the time.
  • I should not be blamed for receiving messages like that due to “charm” that causes someone else’s inappropriate behavior. I did not ask for it.
  • Women should be able to enjoy social events with male colleagues and expect the same level of respect, both professionally and personally, that would be extended between males to each other.

In my professional career, there have been many times in which friendly, collegial attention has been misconstrued for something more because someone wished it so.

“Boys will be boys,” they say. But boys, by definition, are children.

This was not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, that a male colleague has chosen to treat me like an object instead of like an equal.

I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am in my career, and I strive every day to be respected in my role and to play a critical part in my firm’s successes. Situations like this trivialize that very effort.

“Boys will be boys,” they say. But boys, by definition, are children. Children do not understand how to control themselves until they are taught to do so.

Most boys mature into men - and men are expected to have learned how to control themselves by the time they reach adulthood; however, certain powerful men choose to ignore those lessons and continue to act as though they should not be held accountable for their actions. 

I write this for the kind, respectful men who apparently don’t know how different our experience is...

I write this not for the man who sent those messages; I write this for the good, kind, mature, respectful men who apparently don’t know how different our experience is in the very same professional world we share.

If more professional men realized what it is like to be a professional woman, and the degree to which men take liberties to overstep boundaries and then blame women for “asking for it,” I hope some would take pause before doing so or allowing others to do so without reprimand. 

I write this anonymously, because in reality, taking a byline would likely label me a “troublemaker” by the very same powerful men who may dictate my career path.

That frustrating reality is, alas, a reality for so many women.

This is my attempt to enlighten just a few men, in hopes that they wouldn’t want their wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, or any woman in their lives put in a position in which they felt violated or treated like less of a human for being female.

I respect my career, and myself, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to live in a world where working while female is not such a burden.

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