Just another female techie.
Ever since I read the Susan Fowler story here and the Amy story here about sexual harassment at workplace, I have been unsettled. My mind kept drifting on to this issue in the past 2 weeks and I cringe every time I think how it must have been being in their shoes.
I am a 23 year old female employee at a company you’ve probably never heard of, because the fact is, it does not matter. I am harassed sexually at my work place too.
Ever since these articles have left deep impressions in my mind, I have had the urge to write. But I never knew what I would say. I don’t have a story — I never mustered the courage to confront the guy(s) who have abused me in various ways nor complained to the HR fearing the ambitions of my young career in this field. But over the course, my image of a workplace where I’d be respected has diminished. I have no allegations, just that — I have now lost all hope of a great work environment and that this happens to many of us, Uber or not.
Don’t mistake me for an avid feminist who has jumped at this opportunity to bash men. In fact I am what we call, a tom-boy. And for most part of my life, I have had more male friends than female ones. I even find a lot of organizations for Women in Tech to be absurd, but that’s just my personal opinion.
My boss figured that I am a bright kid freshly sown with inspirations to make it big in the tech industry. After moving to a new city, for a lack of better options, I mostly hung out with colleagues after work or on weekends. Rookie mistake. Relationships at work are very formal, you can be stern and confident no matter what shape your genitals are. But beyond the 9 to 5 timings, over a mug of beer, people cozy up. Now everyone has work parties, but my boss — he would take this chance to comment on the shape of my body and explicitly describe things he had noticed about me. While he’d say all this, I’d just smile back having nothing to feed in return. For the most part of it, I assumed this is what being casual at work meant like. I never gave it much thought and lived life normally.
Then the number of sexually offensive jokes at work dramatically increased. My boss was the one to crack these jokes, always. He would comment on body parts of other women from different departments and this is not even the worst part yet. Every other person sitting around, would laugh. I often wonder if everyone genuinely found such jokes funny or was it laughter for the boss’ sake?
After a month-end party at work, he insisted he would drop me home. He came up to my apartment, and instead of leaving at the door, he directly suggested if I would like to sleep with him pointing at the condom in his pocket. I said I was too tired, shut the door and sobbed softly to sleep. He made two more direct attempts of asking me — one of which I even have as proof in my chat history. When I declined all of them, his attitude towards me changed. He started becoming grumpy about little things which never bothered him before — if I came in 5 minutes late or wanted to take an unplanned leave. Suddenly I was breaking all the puny rules around.
During my early, on my way to work one day, I was abused sexually by a man on the bus — not a coworker. He touched me inappropriately and I felt unsafe. I got off the bus and walked the rest of the way. When I reached, I informed about this incident to my boss to get some emergency police phone numbers , he instead joked about it saying “Oh that poor guy, even he could not resist you.”
His biased behavior towards me cooled down in a couple of months and I now can manage working with him. Although I have stopped attending all office parties altogether to avoid any situation again.
But this is not it. Another coworker of mine, finds certain parts of my body, as he calls it sexy. He messages me about how beautiful I look, how nice my hair smells or how nice the dress looks. He even doesn’t hesitate once to say creepy compliments out loud or be the only one to hug me straight up on my birthday or on Christmas.
I never hesitated from confronting him and asking him to stop. But it seems he never understood. He claims he misses his long-distance girlfriend making the night rough on him many times and that I could comfort him. I just don’t know how to say “NO” in a way that he understands.
One of the reasons that I stopped attending the office parties was also because of this coworker. He would come really close to me, grab my waist while pretending to talk to me or pretending to be drunk. When I would shrug him off me, no one else would bat an eye. To my horror, near the water cooler, I heard my boss and this coworker talk about my body and what they like about it.
While I appreciate men directly asking for a fling instead of acting weird and cheesy, but there are some rules and they are simple. Don’t make your coworkers uncomfortable and more importantly, no means no. How difficult it is for a bunch of men to make their sole female companion feel safe from them.
I am looking to change my job and was hoping to make it into a big company in Silicon Valley where techies are geekier and work places more open. But after reading the news these days, I don’t have high hopes from the tech hub of the world either. No city is big or small to change how we treat our women at work.