All women have a sexual harassment story
I had the extreme pleasure of having dinner this past week with over a dozen women in the start-up sector. 90% of the women are the dinner are the female investors who any founder would want to get in front of with hopes that they fund their companies. Over the years, I am happy to say that many of these women have become my friends.
I knew everyone at the dinner but not everyone knew each other. So we began the dinner telling our name, where we reside and a personal sexual harassment story. I wish I could say that not everyone had one but the reality is every single one of us did and then some.
Some of us reflected on what had happened to them and what they would do differently if it happened the next time. That is the key to change. We can no longer be afraid of speaking out and calling someone out when it happens. Just like Emma Sulkowicz carried a mattress around Columbia University to directly amplify her voice towards someone who she had accused of sexual harassment, the women at the top of the investment world need to do the same thing. The women at the top of every field need to do the same thing. All of these women should be able to stand up and tell their story so that others can feel empowered to tell theirs too.
If women are no longer silent then men will curb their atrocious behavior because they understand that the chances of someone will be vocal is a given. It is high time we stop pushing this behavior under the rug and publicly point out sexual harassment the moment it happens. That is the hardest part. Most flounder, walk out of the room and miss the moment and of course, they do because it is terrible and uncomfortable. Here are some suggestions. Muster up the courage to look at them directly and say “I am going to pretend you did not say that” or “Did you just say that to me?” or “You must be kidding me” and then a follow-up with “don’t you ever talk to me like that again or I am going to sue you for sexual harassment and have you fired” and you could throw a few fuck’s in there and definitely say it loudly so someone else hears what just went down. It is awful and it shouldn’t happen but it does. The more we push back and speak up, the chances that change will happen are almost guaranteed.