This op-ed was featured in the Des Moines Register on December 8, 2017.
The announcement this week of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was bittersweet news to me. The silence-breakers most certainly deserve the recognition and yet our work is only just beginning. The #metoo movement has gained considerable steam as of late and society is pondering the fact that bad behavior and incidents of harassment are coming to light in record numbers. This issue is as old as time and for those who have not experienced harassment or been on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior please know that you are very lucky. The majority of women out there have experienced this ever-present issue and have not told anyone about it. They have let it happen repeatedly and even allowed demeaning behavior toward them to continue for an embarrassingly long time. This is a reality for many. This reality is twisted and wrong and we cannot let it continue.
The beauty of the #metoo movement is that a very bright light is shining on a pervasive and persistent issue. The sadness of this movement is that it is 2017 and harassment continues to happen to strong, thoughtful, driven, and professional women.
As a whole, women in our society are more powerful than ever. There are more women obtaining higher education, working in high-powered corporate positions, and driving our economy in record numbers yet harassment in our lives remains a disease that we haven’t eradicated. Why are we perpetuating this dismal reality? Why are strong and opinionated women allowing egotistical men to ruin careers and mental wellbeing? (The sad reality is that a variety of reasons prevent people from coming forward.) Why are we not banding together to enact change? Let’s turn these questions into hard-fought answers.
As a professionally driven woman, I was not going to sit idle while those in positions of power attempted to dictate the outcome of my career while they said and acted however they wanted without regard to anyone else in the room. I complained multiple times until it got me fired. This retaliatory action was wrong and the fact that the main harasser kept his job was also wrong. Unfortunately, my situation was not unique.
Now that we are in the midst of a movement that is growing, we must work together to put an end to harassment in the workplace, including the shame and guilt associated with it - we have to start talking about it. We must get comfortable talking about harassment; as well as when, where, and how to draw the line if we are to eradicate it entirely. We cannot simply move on from this. We move forward with the knowledge we’ve gained and support each other. We educate those who have not experienced it and those who are abusing their positions of power. We can turn #metoo into #Isaidsomething. Start a conversation today.