Being hit on
Due to the utter shitstorm of transparency of outing bad characters in the tech world last week, I have been thinking about the two times that I have been in situations where power was abused by men.
Before graduating from college, I went on the job interview circuit as many do. I was a retail/finance major and going to work for the big department stores after graduating, specifically Macy’s or Bloomingdales, was the job you wanted to secure if you were going to be in the retail space. I interviewed with at least 15 companies and ended up taking the job offered to me from Macy’s.
I did not quite realize what had happened at my interview at Bloomingdales until the next day when I started to think about it. I spent the day there going through a series of interviews. The last interview took place in a GMM’s office ( General Merchandise Manager – this guy was a VP who oversaw all of ready-to-wear). He basically hit on me. He was a big guy and got extremely close to me as I was leaving his office hovering over me in the door frame commenting on my looks and smarts and then the close which was asking if I was staying in the city that night and perhaps we could talk more.
I was so focused on getting the job offer, that I ignored the behavior in the moment. Although when Bloomingdales called a week or so later to offer me the job, I declined and told them exactly what had happened in my interview. That the senior VP who interviewed me hit on me and made inappropriate comments. They asked who it was, I had blocked him out of my brain, but suggested that they go back and figure it out as they must know who I interviewed with. Never been great with name recall. I am sure nothing came of it but I did feel empowered by telling them what happened. I also felt I dodged a bullet.
Fast forward, I was at Macy’s as a buyer and the GMM (again a VP of all of women’s ready-to-wear) not only made inappropriate comments in a full on division meeting he also felt up the legs of a female buyer who was on a chair putting her presentation up on the wall while we all watched. The head of my division, also a man among the all-female buying division, got into the game and found it hilarious and powerful. I was mortified. I remember thinking what’s up with these assholes. This GMM is also the guy who told me that women do not move as quickly as men in the organization.
I took that comment and what had happened in the meeting and went to speak to the head of personnel, another man. I was obviously not that politically astute because the head of HR, as he listened to me, basically told me that they would talk to them and it is what it is. Once the head of HR spoke to my boss, the head of the division, I was ostracized. He had been called out by HR and he did not like it one bit. Talk about a boy’s club.
Truth is, I was bored out of my mind there although my boss kept giving me more responsibility he was completely inept in the majority of his decision making so I was learning zero from him. He was part of the boy’s club and now I made him look bad so it was time for me to depart. I left for a variety of reasons. The first being told that women don’t move as quickly as men, the second because I was bored and not challenged, the third because Macy’s had just gone private and I got nothing for that except more micro-managing from the powers that be because they took on so much debt that they were freaked and the lack of respect for women. At that time, the majority of buyers were women but the majority of the senior management were men. Not shocking for those times.
I knew that by calling those guys out was the right thing to do regardless of how both companies (Bloomingdales and Macy’s) dealt with the knowledge. My hope is that now more than ever, more women and particularly men, have the confidence to call out more bad players in the moment. One voice can quickly become many when nobody looks the other way…and we all have to stop looking the other way.