In my 30 or so years working in the corporate world, I was always thankful that I had escaped any sexual harassment in the workplace. Many times I faced gender bias on getting a job or getting promotions, but I was never actually assaulted at work. I felt terrible for the women who suffered at the hands of powerful men, emboldened by their positions to take advantage of the women. But that does not mean I escaped the curse. As the Twitter hashtag #me too revealed, if you ask any woman, chances are she will tell you a story of how she or a relative or friend was sexually harassed or assaulted.
In my sophomore year of high school, a fellow student began to follow me around school and asked me out repeatedly. I politely declined and asked him to quit following me. Instead, he followed me everywhere. He lived on another bus route, but he began taking my school bus in the afternoon and often walked behind me the three blocks from the bus stop to my home, then stood outside calling my name.
Junior year, senior year… Some evenings he would call me on the phone every 15 minutes, all evening long. My parents reported the situation to the police over and over again. They also spoke to the boy’s parents, who apologized and placed a lock on their home phone. But the boy kept following me and calling. It was horrible, unnerving to see that guy everywhere I went.
When I left for college 200 miles away, he transferred his interest to my younger sister, sitting outside the house in our rhododendron bushes and calling her name. One night she awoke to a man in her room, his hand over her mouth, telling her to be quiet. Our 80 pound yellow mutt, Charlie, had heard a strange noise, though, and came barking into the room. The intruder jumped out the window onto the porch roof and was gone. The police never figured out who it was. We were pretty sure we knew.
“Well, lucky you have a good dog,” the police said. “And the main thing is, no one was hurt.”
Six or seven years later, it was the start of the fall semester of another sister’s sophomore year at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. A stiflingly hot, August day, she had spent many hours moving into a house she planned to share with three friends near the campus. That evening a thunderstorm was approaching, and at dusk her roommates all went out to watch the thunder and lightening move in across the corn fields. My sister, though, sweating profusely after a day of lugging around boxes, begged off the adventure. She put in another hour or so of unpacking, then lay down in the near 100 degree heat in her second story bedroom to rest. She fell asleep lying on top of her sheets, wearing only her underwear.
She awoke some time later to a hand across her face and a man on top of her. He had probably broken into what looked to him like an empty house, to rob stereos and anything else that looked interesting. Once in the house, he decided she looked like a nice plum to pick. He managed to pull off her underwear and was close to penetration when she fought him off.
And then he pulled out a gun. “Stop fighting or I’ll shoot,” he ordered, aiming the gun at her head.
When she continued to struggle, he pulled the trigger.
She cringed.
The gun misfired.
She took advantage of the attacker’s surprise to run screaming into another room, and he climbed back out the window he’d gotten in through.
It would be hours till her roommates got home. The phone was not installed yet, and no curtains had even been hung. Sure that the intruder would return to retrieve his pillowcases full of loot, which were lying in the hallway where he had abandoned them, my sister sat alone for hours in the dark at the kitchen table holding a butcher knife, not collapsing into tears until her friends returned home.
When the police finally arrived, they determined that nothing had actually been stolen, so they were not really interested in pursuing the incident. They made a few half-hearted efforts to find her attacker, but gave up after a few weeks, so there was no arrest, no trial. “You shouldn’t have had the window open,” they said. They told her, basically, that there was no harm done, “at least he didn’t actually rape you,” and she was lucky the gun misfired.
We called her Wonder Woman and gave her silly Wonder Woman gifts, trying to emphasize how great it was that she stood up to the man; that she’d fought him off. The truth, of course, is that she’d have died on the spot if that gun hadn’t misfired. Her attacker was holding it inches from her head. The episode still haunts her; her counselor tells her she suffers from PTSD.
My sisters and I never saw our attackers put on trial. We spoke up. We tried to get justice. Police, family and friends all knew that sexual assault had happened, but no one was punished. I am excited at the new energy in the feminist sphere. #metoo and #timesup are both powerful movements. But I fear that few, if any of the many sexual harassers outed in 2017 will ever be brought to a criminal trial, much less found guilty, and even less likely punished with jail terms. Yet I know deep inside, that nothing will change significantly until the perpetrators of gender harassment are punished through the penal system.

Turner and Labrie

Consider two famous recent cases, where two perpetrators of sexual assault who were actually arrested and found guilty in a trial, got little in the way of punishment.
Late one evening in 2015, tourists in Stanford, California came across a young white man molesting a woman who lay unconscious on a sidewalk. They rushed to stop him, then held him till the police arrived. The next spring, a jury found Brock Turner—described in newspaper accounts as a freshman swimmer at Stanford University—guilty of three felony counts: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person.
His sentence? Despite calls from the prosecutor for a strong one, in June of 2016, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to only six months in prison for this violent crime. When he was released in August of 2016, he had spent less than 3 months in jail.
“I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life. And the impact statements that have been—or the, really, character letters that have been submitted, do show a huge collateral consequence for Mr. Turner based on the conviction,” the judge is reported to have said at the sentencing hearing.
Had the woman he raped not suffered a huge “collateral consequence?”
“An outrage!” many media outlets proclaimed. People marched and carried signs. The internet and 24 hour news channels were filled with calls for change. Was this the case that would finally get people to approach sexual assault as a crime? After all, this young man raped a woman who was lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
But wait—another young, white, privileged sex offender had been released just a month before Turner’s sentencing, also after doing very little prison time. On August 28, 2015, Owen Labrie, a high school senior, was convicted of sexually assaulting a female classmate about a year before, at St. Paul’s Prep School in New Hampshire, an elite, church-affiliated school. He had been on trial for felony rape, which could have carried up to 20 years in prison, but the jury acquitted Labrie of that, instead assigning the lesser charge. The victim wasn’t identified by name in official documents because she was only 15 years old at the time of the sexual assault.
Labrie and his buddies, upperclassmen at the school, had been playing a game of conquest, competing to see how many freshman and sophomore girls they could deflower. He had convinced this girl that he really cared about her and so managed to earn a notch for his belt.
Before sentencing, Labrie’s mother, Denise Holland, submitted a letter to the judge asking for probation only, for her son. She wrote that Labrie had become despondent and suicidal as “so many years of dedication and hard work dissolved before him.” The judge seemed sympathetic to the mother’s pleas but said he couldn’t ignore what Labrie had done to the young girl. And then he sentenced him to only six months in prison. When he was released in May of 2016, like Turner, Labrie had served only about half of that.
For speaking out, the young girl was harassed on social media for years, called all sorts of terrible slurs. And for this he served only a couple of months in prison.

It is hard to believe, reading about these cases, that so much attention was placed on how a long sentence would damage these young men’s futures. The judges were completely drawn into imagining how these “otherwise promising” young men would suffer. Yet it was Turner who branded himself as a criminal, when he chose to take advantage of an unconscious woman. And LaBrie had turned his back on his own future when he chose to act the sexual predator.
There is something about a young, well-to-do white man that seems to beg that the courts consider his “promise.” But what sort of promise do these men hold, anyway? As far as I can tell, it is the promise of future sexual assaults on other unsuspecting young women. It is certainly not a promise for a future career as a scientist, college professor or priest.
At least, in these two cases, the men were found guilty of something. They will have to register as convicted sexual offenders for the rest of their lives. (One of them has reopened his case to try to get that requirement lifted.) The presence of a corroborating witness in one case and the age of the victim in the other demanded that something be done. Still, a few months in jail for possibly ruining the lives of these young women?
And although the perpetrators were arrested and found guilty, the pathetically weak sentencing is only half of the insult to these women. After stepping forward and filing charges, the women were tried by the jury of public opinion, and found by many of them to be almost as guilty as their rapists.The internet is full of vile comments about them, which anyone can find as a matter of record. No wonder so many women don’t get up the courage to speak up until many years have passed and they are perhaps in a more powerful position, or until they find strength in numbers.
Recently, women of the Air Force Academy have come forward to report that not only were several women raped by their colleagues over the past several years, but also that senior officials did little or nothing to punish the men. The women, meanwhile have been subjected to terrible hazing and mistreatment, in punishment for speaking up, ratting on their peers. Several female Air Force cadets resigned, rather than be subjected to the daily abuse. The perpetrators have gone on to graduate.

Both my sisters are still haunted by their experience of waking up with a strange man on top of them. The Air Force cadets and women of our armed services who have been assaulted and then tormented for speaking up, have seen their entire life changed. The victims of Turner and Labrie likely still relive their experiences, as well. Their lives will never be the same; their peaceful, happy futures were stolen by fellow cadets, Turner and Labrie, and unknown men who crept in windows in the middle of the night.

The U. S. in 2016 and 2017 has seen an explosion of complaints about sexual misconduct. Millions of women and men wrote and spoke and posted about Bill Cosby and Hollywood moguls and high level politicians harassing and even assaulting women and girls. But after a period of time for the outrage to die down, how much will change? Despite more than a dozen accusers, Bill Cosby’s trial ended in a mistrial.
Will Donald Trump or Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer—and on and on—ever face legal repercussions for their alleged misconduct? Or will powerful men continue to take advantage of attractive young women, and escape, even if found out, with little more than a slap on the wrist as punishment? Only days days after Matt Lauer was fired, I already heard a news commentator wondering aloud about how the accused men could be helped to salvage their careers. The speaker—on a radio news program—seemed full of sympathy at how an otherwise “brilliant career” was now damaged. Bah! What about the women who gave up on their careers because of the harassment and general hostility they faced in the workplace? Women who decided it wasn’t worth it, and went back to their hometown.
After all the revelations about these famous men, Labrie and Turner’s names have been almost forgotten. They are a stark reminder, though, that accusations are one thing. Appropriate punishment is something else. Somehow when it comes to the trial, there always seem to be people who convince themselves that the women are probably exaggerating. Or that they likely had consensual sex then changed their mind and decided to take some man for all the money she could get. Or who just don’t want to damage some “promising” man’s career for something that they consider “no harm done.”
What we see is that whenever the public is drawn into a highly publicized sexual assault case, there is some outrage for a while, but there is no institutional change. The Hollywood led outrage is stronger than most I’ve seen, but will it change anything? The perpetrators are seen as tragic aberrations of otherwise fine, upstanding young men who would never do something like this. Or successful men who just made some minor error in judgement. Turner and Labrie have gone on with their lives. The high profile sexual assaulters will likely talk their way out of prison terms. I hope a few cadets will lose their commissions. But their victims and the many other victims, like my sisters, likely wake up in the middle of the night from time to time, shaking and trembling with dread.
“I believe that you are not the angel as portrayed by your counsel and the letters of support submitted on your behalf,” the Judge told Owen Labrie at his sentencing. “But neither are you the devil as portrayed by the prosecution.”
Was Labrie a devil? An angel?
I say, it’s not a relevant question. Neither he nor Brock Turner was either mythical creature. Devils and angels are religious/imaginary terminology, and do not belong in a judicial proceeding.
But speaking of angels and such, why are churches all over our country not speaking up? The tendency to believe the man, even against multiple accusations, or to minimize the trauma to the woman, is part of a general attitude—like “separate but equal.” No real harm done…

To my mind, if they are not part of the solution—whether they are churches or corporate CEO’s or judges—they are part of the problem. #times up on sexual assault.
And #timetodotime. Women will never achieve social and workplace equality if men can assault with impunity. Let’s make sure these men are convicted and actually sent to prison for their misdeeds. This means it can’t be just women who are outraged. Upstanding men, too, must speak up. And together we must demand trials and suitable sentencing.

Niagara Falls

The glaciers are melting! In great, huge sheets, huge chunks fall from the enormous northern icecaps and crash into the sea. No, I am not describing the Arctic in 2018. This is about 12,000 years ago, the end of the last, great Ice Age, and the mountains of snow and ice are receding northward through the mountain valleys they had carved many years before, when they were in the ascent.

And why am I telling you about Niagara Falls?  Keep reading. It has something to do with the #metoo movement.  Pretend I’m Rachel Maddow with an offbeat story that suddenly makes sense.

As the glaciers melt, torrents pouring from their southernmost boundaries gradually collect into huge pools that become the Great Lakes. And on the eastern edge of these lakes, huge torrents rush along what will become the Niagara River. Rushing, churning, the frigid waters pour over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, a cliff of hard rock, at what is now Lewiston, New York, about seven miles east of the current Niagara Falls.
Almost immediately the water of the newly-formed falls begins to cut into the cliff over which it pours. But below the flowing water is sedimentary rock, made of layers of harder and softer substances, a little like layers of a cake, with frosting or jelly a different consistency than the cake layers it separates. The highest underground layer of rock, the layer at the top of the cliff and directly under the flowing water, is made of a type of stone called Lockport dolomite – a very hard, erosion-resistant material. The underlying layers of rock (those that support the dolomite), however, are mostly soft. Gradually, the rushing water from the river above the falls pushes its way down through cracks in the dolomite layer and into the layers of softer rock below.
Moving water is an insistent knife. It pushes at and carves through the softer stone until the pressure of the water pushes one section, then another of the soft under-layers out from the face of the cliff and into the falling water. When these soft layers are sheared off by the water pouring over the escarpment, the support for the top layer of harder dolomite is gone. With nothing left underneath to hold up the top edge of the cliff, crash! the dolomite layer collapses under its own weight and falls to the base of the cliff at the bottom of the falls, where the cascading water pounds down on the rubble, wearing it slowly away. Thousands of years pass. This seeping, pushing, and crashing repeats and repeats, and little by little the soft under-layers of the cliff continue to shear away behind the falls. The dolomite at the brink of the falls continues to collapse as its support is removed, and the falls move slowly upstream.  Today, 12,000 years later, the escarpment that we saw Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton looked out over, in the movie Niagara, has moved more than seven miles upstream from its original location, and in the process it carved out the Niagara Gorge – a seven-mile canyon.Horseshoe-Falls-49345
The Falls continue to move slowly upstream today.  But the process is mostly invisible. Years and years go by, with no visible change, until suddenly, the erosion of the under layer reaches a point where it can no longer support the top layer, and a huge chunk of rock collapses. This is why visitors to the Falls now see a huge pile of rubble at its base. That is how the many caves that modern tourists visit were created. Seven miles in 12,000 years… The erosion in the  lower, softer stone layers has been slow but steady. But up top, what is visible to the eye, happens in sudden bursts. One day, the Niagara Falls tumble over the cliff at a certain point, and the next moment several feet of the top stone layer suddenly crack off and crash to the foot of the cliff.

application to today
Human history is like the Niagara river. Changes happen invisibly, little by little, until suddenly, in what seems like overnight, their effects can be seen. It’s a little like watching your children grow. I remember when my second child was born. My older daughter was almost five, and when she came to visit us at the hospital, I was startled at how large her hand was. Up to this point, I had thought she was so little, my baby. But after a couple of days of getting used to my new 6 ½ pound second child, Charlotte looked almost all grown up.
That’s what it feels like when I think of the evolution in our national and international political systems, religious/spiritual institutions, social mores, etc. If I try to line up today with fifty years ago, when I was a young college girl, I am surprised beyond belief. At what point did all the all male business and professional schools become coed? And in my personal life, at what point did my daughter go from toddler to small child? From adolescent to adult?

This is what we are seeing today with the #metoo movement. Women have been pushing on the boundaries for years now. Civil rights legislation got us in the door and into well paying factory jobs and white collar management ranks. But persistent harassment from male peers has sent many women running for the nearest exit. Maybe now, something will happen that is positive. Maybe now the rocks will crack, tumble and sheer off.  Let us hope so. Let us all be that insistent, shearing knife. Let us all demand, No more. Let us help our most needy women peers get the satisfaction they need in order to continue working. And let us work tirelessly to bring punishment to their tormentors.

We may see a female president yet.


High Heels and Pants Suits

I’m hobbling onstage in my first pair of two-inch heels to sing with the St. Rose school choir for the Monsignor’s 50th anniversary celebration. If I slip the painful shoes off while I’m up on the riser, I’m afraid one might fall down to the floor below, and I’ll be left missing a shoe, which will really look stupid when we process out. So I have to stand for over an hour in the agony of pointy-toed, two-inch heels with paper thin soles. The balls of my feet are on fire! And this is just the beginning. My feet will hurt not only during choir concerts, but also at dances, my prom, high school graduation, college graduation, both of my weddings, my sisters’ and friends’ weddings, job interviews, and long airport corridors while traveling on business.

247anoukpat_black_sideI remember hurrying through airports with my audit team in the early 80’s, before working women started en masse to wear sneakers and socks with their suits on the way to and from work. (During a subway strike in NYC, they took to carrying their dress shoes with them and changing into the silly high heels when they got to the office.) But before that, we were all hobbled, like ancient Chinese women. My skirt didn’t let me take long strides, the shoes hurt, and it was very difficult to keep up with my male traveling companions. How was this supposed to help me compete as an equal?
I wore blue and white saddle shoes to St. Clare of Montefalco elementary school, and on Sundays, black, low-heeled, patent leather shoes with little straps that slid back behind my heel so they looked more like women’s pumps. At Good Counsel Academy we had to wear hideous gray oxfords; and at White Plains High School it was either black flats, Keds with no socks, or penny loafers with a shiny dime in the slot. But all those comfortable shoes of my childhood and early adolescence segued with puberty into white high heels for graduations and weddings, black pumps and sling back high heels for job interviews and daily work wear, and beige and pink high heels with open toes that went with my dressy beige and pink suits, respectively. Reebok cross-trainers and brown boots with felt liners were saved for times I could breathe and be me.
At work, as an accounting manager at American Can Company or at the various banks where I spent most of my career, none of the men around me were putting off walking over to someone else’s office because they just couldn’t bear to put their shoes back on. I tried Dr. Scholl inserts and tried to convince myself that Naturalizer pumps did not look like old lady shoes, but it was no use. It seemed I could either look good or feel good, but never both at the same time. Whether making a presentation to the board or joining colleagues at a business dinner, my square toes would sit crammed into a little triangular space, heels up, my weight thrust totally to the balls of the feet, which sat on a paper-thin layer of leather or imitation leather. I felt every bump, every whack of my weight hitting the cement floor, even with the thin layer of carpeting stretched over it in most office buildings. Misery!

And then I discovered pants suits. Not only did this mean I could wear trouser socks instead of panty hose, which invariably developed a run moments before a big meeting. And not only were pants warmer in the winter than the silly knee length skirts that have been in style most of my life, but with pants suits I also got to wear low heeled shoes. Amazing! I found black loafer-like shoes with almost round toes, heels about one inch high and soles at least a quarter of an inch thick that not only looked great with a pants suit, but I could walk in them for more than two blocks without feeling like my toes were caught in a vise.
When people on TV and radio and in the newspapers discuss the progress of women’s rights, they love to point to Hillary Clinton running for president, or some of the other high profile women of achievement. These are great; it is wonderful that young women now have successful role models in all areas of public life. But I find it disturbing that so little is said about the persistent little discriminatory holdovers that hang in here, there and everywhere.
For example, when was the last time anyone spoke or wrote about what Barack Obama or Donald Trump wore? (except for that long tie of his.) How many hundreds of digs have been made about Senator Clinton’s pants suits? Yet if she wore a skirt, someone would say it was too short – her legs are too heavy for that length, or she’s too old to wear a skirt above her knee – or some pundit would decide that the skirt was too long, making her look dowdy. When was the last time anyone called a male politician dowdy? We don’t use that word with men. Men may dress casually, or they may dress “conservatively,” but no one ever calls them dowdy. Mrs. Clinton has discovered what many businesswomen have discovered over the past 20 or so years: pants suits are fabulous.
If this were a female dominated world, she could wear red when she’s feeling energetic (or wished she felt energetic) and pale blue when she’s feeling pensive. But we live in a male-dominated society where anything identified as female is scorned as silly, useless, off tangent, pointless fluff. In her concession speech, Mrs. Clinton said, “I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious.” She probably wasn’t talking about shoes and panty hose, but it’s all part of the larger picture.
I can deal with all that. I can deal with trying to wear an attractive, stylish suit when I think it’s important to dress well. Suits, hair and even makeup are fine. It’s those high-heeled pumps that I can’t stand. Many women dress to highlight their good looks, instead of to look powerful. Some of them even waste the opportunity and wear stilettos with pants suits! What foolishness! How can anyone look powerful hobbling along in three-inch stilettos?
Men dress to look powerful. They know that a well made suit and tie is a uniform that lets everyone know that someone is a powerful man. He knows a lot about a lot, and he’ll make all the decisions. When a woman dresses in a navy blue pants suit with very little jewelry, her hair short (not “mannishly” short, God forbid, but still, short) the heels as low as she thinks she can get away with, people who aren’t aware might think, she looks like a man. What they’re really feeling, probably, is that she is not dressing to the stereotype of a woman dressing to attract a man. Mrs. Clinton is dressing to help us focus on her message, not her looks. New York’s Senator Gillibrand has modified her dress since she entered the Senate. Gone are the fuzzy pink suits of her Representative days. Now she, too, wears dark suits and low heeled shoes–not sneakers, but a little lower heeled.
Dressing to highlight the aspects of womanhood that men find attractive has historically been a highly effective and adaptive way to go. Up to recently, the only way a woman could assure herself of a comfortable life was to attract a successful man. In this old world, dressing to highlight shapely legs and narrow ankles made sense. But why do that to stand in front of crowds talking about the economy?
In his famous Dress for Success, the bible for all us women entering the professional workforce in the early eighties, John T. Molloy told us all to wear suits. Wearing a suit, especially in traditionally male fabrics and the jacket similarly tailored would help get us the respect we wanted as professional businesswomen, and not be confused as secretaries. No clunky jewelry. No pastel colors. Wear a blue or gray or black or possibly a beige suit with a white or very pale blue or pink  blouse and a little bow tie or small scarf made of the same material popular for men’s ties. Back then, we were told never to wear pants suits, as they would make us look too masculine (ie. Emasculating, every man’s worst nightmare.) Of course, as time went on, we dropped the silly bow ties, and gradually pastel colors and pants (and reasonable shoes) became OK.
So I when I go to a business meeting I wear pants suits, and low heeled shoes. And I doubt if anyone cares or notices. But my feet feel great.


Women in Tech, and Other Fables

For years we’ve heard talk about the need for more women in the STEM fields. Are women suitable to work in the tech fields, and so on. The babble I’ve heard so far skips over the fact that there are still not a representative number of women in the top ranks of any company in any sector. Tech is just a little bit worse.

Despite women making up 50% or more of MBAs and CPAs over the past forty or more years, women make up a pitiful percentage – less than 10% – of CEOs, CFOs and board members of large American Corporations. The man who wrote the much-discussed memo at Google raised issues which he believed made women unsuitable for positions of consequence in tech companies. But he could just as easily be writing about women anywhere in senior management. The fact is, that men control the C-suite and the boardroom, and they invent all sorts of reasons for why women can’t hack it.

The problem is that men in power assign importance to peripheral, non-critical skills and attitudes. For example. Suppose all the men at the upper echelons at a big company smoked a pipe. Because none of the women at the middle management level smoke a pipe at this company, they are not considered for the most senior positions. The fact that this particular group of men all smoke a pipe has nothing to do with whether they are good, bad, or indifferent managers. This is a peripheral, non-critical characteristic, that should have nothing to do with promotability.  The reasons most men raise for women’s unsuitability for the C-suite and the boardroom make just about as much sense as pipe smoking.

Early in my career, I was facing terrible resistance at my particular company to my participation as a professional in corporate finance.  A woman in HR advised me that if I would go out drinking with some of the men after work I might be able to move up. I was the single mother of two daughters and could not do that. And anyway, what did drinking Bass Ale (the drink of choice that year) with some men from the office have to do with my financial, analytical skills? A non-critical fable.

Here’s a real story. When I was in third or fourth grade, the neighborhood bully, Harry Chrysler, beat up my little brother. Johnny was in kindergarten or first grade, and came home with a bloody arm that had been scraped across the pavement when Harry beat him up. I told my brother to follow me, marched across the street and attacked Harry like a windmill, unaware that I was the shrimp in my class and he was at least a foot taller than me. I lit into him with all my might, at some point ending up sitting on him, pounding on his back and shoulders with my shoe until he would tell my brother he was sorry. He finally did, and ran home crying when I let him up. My brother became a successful doctor, and I rose to chief financial officer of a good-sized bank. My willingness or non willingness to go out drinking with the boys had nothing to do with anything.

I may not have gone about things in quite the same way as a man. I don’t know. We accept all sorts of different management styles from men. But I do know that I knew what I was doing and the departments I was responsible for over the years of my working career did well. I am now the only woman on the board of directors of a community bank, and I believe I make a contribution to its governance. I not only know banking inside out, I believe I am also a lamp post, shining a light on a path junior women at the bank may follow.

Men who complain about women in management in their field are likely men who saw a woman get promoted over them. I don’t know the particular circumstances faced by the author of the piece being discussed, but I can reflect on how some lacksidaisical men I worked with complained when I got promoted over them.  I can remember when a boss who liked my work and was trying to promote me asked me to “just don’t wear pink” to an important meeting. I can remember when a CEO I reported to snapped at me, “You’re not their mother,” when I told him we needed to add staff because the department was working too many long hours.

Gender bias is real. And women who want to go into tech or finance or whatever deserve to compete in a level playing field.



#Why I March

When the women’s march on Washington was first announced, I was skeptical.  What was the point?  Why march around on a cold January day?  Yes, many women I know, myself included, thought Trump was despicable, but what could we change by marching around?

I am so glad I gave it a chance.

What I discovered is that participating with women (and many men) of all walks of life was an invigorating experience in and of itself. It had seemed that everywhere I turned for the past few years, everyone seemed to be saying that feminism wasn’t necessary anymore, that women had already shattered the glass ceiling, what was my problem? Why couldn’t I see that? I felt like I must be missing something. But as I listened and I looked around at my fellow marchers on Saturday, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

Becoming part of a community

I liken joining the march to the experience I had when I got to know the mental illness advocacy community.

When my brother Paul, who suffered from severe, persistent, and treatment-resistant schizophrenia was released from the state hospital in the 1990’s, he was obviously still terribly ill.  I thought the hospital administrators had made a mistake.  I thought that they hadn’t realized he was unlike the vast majority of people they were releasing from mental hospitals, people who had apparently recovered with the help of modern medications. My brother was hardly helped at all by the modern psychotropic drugs. He was totally confused and unable to care for himself. I thought, and members of my family thought, that if we could just explain how ill he was, someone would help us get him into a supervised living facility with doctors and nurses to help him. The next fifteen years were a struggle, until it ended in Paul’s early death at age 48.

After I wrote a book about my family’s experience of trying to get him better care, I came in contact with hundreds of other people who were fighting the same battle.  It wasn’t until then that I realized that I wasn’t alone. Paul was not an unusual case. He was one of the 4% of our US population who suffer from a debilitating serious mental illness -10 million people – most of whom are getting totally inadequate care. Our health care system has abandoned the most seriously ill – too difficult, too expensive – in effect saying let them die, it’s not our problem. I became an advocate for change to the system and hope I played a small part in pressuring congress, and leading to legislation that was passed in December of last year.

So why do I tell this story?

Because we women, and the men, women and children who will lose their health care when the ACA is repealed, as well as the LGBT community, and the people who have been fighting for sensible environmental laws and urban planning in anticipation of the impact of global climate change — each of us needs to know we are not alone. We can become part of a humanist coalition to demand change. We can run for office and support others with like minds to run for office.

My issues

To make an impact, each of us has to focus on one or two issues that are most important to us. And each of us needs to take tangible action to improve our world.

Discrimination against women in the workplace is my most pressing issue. It is often much more subtle these days, compared to the Mad Men days, and women have moved up to earning almost 80% of what men make. But I say, “80% is not enough!”

It’s not enough for companies to hire a woman in a managerial position – if her supervisor and peers then hobble her, making it difficult for her to be successful. We deserve fair and equal treatment. I will do my best to hold up a mirror to men’s prejudices, letting men know what they are doing and how it impacts their female coworkers.

It’s not enough to “allow” a woman in the room for a strategic meeting – if you then ignore her observations and suggestions, and/or give credit for the idea to a man at the table who happens to repeat her remarks ten minutes later. We must call men on it. And hope that they will eventually get the cotton out of their ears and hear us.

Connected to my first issue is violence against women.  It’s not enough to encourage your daughters to attend a prestigious university – if the university’s policies turn a blind eye to campus rape and repeated sexual assault wherever she goes on campus. How can she become a self-assured and confident woman in the workplace and government if she is afraid of being assaulted? To end this violence, we must teach young men that his is not OK, support women who file charges of sexual assault, pay attention to their suffering, and pressure judges to give meaningful sentences to men found guilty.

And also connected with this issue is access to affordable birth control.  If a woman cannot control pregnancy, it is very hard for her to play a meaningful role in the workplace and political sphere. Discrimination against women is glaringly obvious in the first days of the Trump administration, as Republicans and Trump eliminate the requirement to charge the same thing for both male and female insurance policies and to cover birth control. Also, the gag rule against mentioning abortion as an option to an unwanted pregnancy was reinstated on domestic and international aid. This will unfairly hobble women at home and around the world as they attempt to responsibly plan their families.

I am heartened by gathering with so many women, heartened to know I am not alone.  My concerns are real.  And these will be issues I will work on in coming months.

Women’s 21st Century Bill of Rights

The Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches shared a concern about the new administration’s threats to humanistic freedoms achieved over recent decades. Now let us put together a clear definition of what we want to achieve in the coming weeks and months. I thought we might start with a statement of what we believe to be the freedoms that are in jeopardy. We can then move on to tangible ways to make improvements happen.

WBR 1: Congress shall make no law applying to all women the beliefs of any religion with respect to women’s reproductive duties or responsibilities. Anyone may freely exercise their belief thereof, but may not extend that belief to restrict or intimidate others. A woman’s reproductive health care is of concern to her and her doctor, only.

WBR 2: Congress will respect not just a man’s, but also a woman’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which encompasses:

a. Her right to breath clean air, drink clean water, and have access to food not tainted by poisonous chemicals. Environmental protection–especially regarding global warming concerns, the protection of pristine land from oil drilling and the encouragement of renewable energy development–will help to protect this right and must be followed.

b. Access to affordable post secondary education for herself and her family. All citizens will be better able to live a free and happy life if they can learn the skills needed to be a productive member of society, free of the onerous burden of college loans.


c. The right to decide if and when she wishes to give birth to a child. She cannot pursue a career or support herself with some comforts, nor participate in the human desire for sexual activity if unable to prevent the birth of a child.

WBR 3: Congress will do what it must do to bring down the cost of health care, remembering the value of all citizens, not just the fat cat CEOs of pharmaceutical companies. This will include positive change in the health care of people with serious and debilitating mental illnesses so that they and their family caretakers may freely participate in our society without endangering themselves or others.

WBR 4: Congress will enforce and strengthen existing non discrimination laws regarding the rights of women, minorities, and people whose expression of sexuality may differ from that of the lawmakers. They/we must be given every opportunity as a white man to succeed in the world. 80% is not enough. We need and we deserve to earn the same pay as male peers, to be given EQUAL (not almost equal) respect in the workplace and opportunities for advancement.

WBR 5: So as to enable female citizens to pursue their daily interests freely, Congress will enforce and strengthen laws regarding the privacy of a woman’s body. She/we deserves to be able to walk to and from work, attend social events, etc. without threat of sexual attack. To this end, Congress will ensure that rape and sexual assault laws are enforced and perpetrators punished in a manner commensurate with the severity of the crime.

WBR 6: So as to bring about these rights, Congress will pass legislation to bring about public funding of political campaigns, freeing politicians from the noxious and poisonous lobbyists who damage our democratic system through their control of our lawmakers.


What Charlie Rose Missed

The main topic for Charlie’s show Monday night was the second presidential debate. I tuned in eagerly, hoping for a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion of the debate and the state of America’s presidential race. As he introduced the three men who would be commenting on the debate and its aftermath, my jaw dropped. Yet again, there was no woman on the panel. A major aspect of the discussion had to do with Mr. Trump’s treatment of women, but it would be discussed about women, rather than with women.

My women friends and I, tweeting and posting to Facebook on Sunday evening and over the course of the day on Monday, had noticed something Charlie’s guests had noticed only in passing. Women noticed that Trump stood too close, looming over Mrs. Clinton like the menacing, creepy clowns people have been talking about. He paced like a cage beast, did push ups on his chair back, and came up behind her and glared in an unmistakably threatening way.  By fifteen minutes into the debate, one friend noted, “Ugh, it looks like he’s grooming her.” (referring to the way perverted men position young women and girls to be taken advantage of.) One posted – in mostly caps – “Tell that man to get out of her space.” And another, “What is he doing? He looks like he’s getting ready to punch her.” Etc.

Every woman who has ever been bullied by a belligerent husband or boyfriend felt her guard come up when Trump loomed into view behind Mrs. Clinton. Domestic abuse is rampant in our country – both verbal and physical. Many of us remember feeling the hairs on our neck stand on end, when we heard a man’s footsteps behind us in a deserted parking lot or dark street. Or the boy who joked, “Maybe I don’t want to drive you home just yet,” as he ran his fingers through our hair. I had a visceral reaction; I actually shuddered at one point, suddenly remembering the way four or five men crowded around me when I was out running an errand at lunchtime one day. They touched my hair and whispered hoarsely  what they would like to do with me. I broke away by whacking them with my purse and ran, screaming, as fast as I could.

Is that what our election is about? About who can menace and overpower the other?  If so, maybe instead of an election, candidates can just go a few rounds in a boxing ring. We can have a George Foreman, or a Mike Tyson (who was convicted of sexual assault) as our next president. Or maybe we can have some other physical feat determine who should be our chief executive, and someone like Brock Turner –a tall, handsome young athlete, a champion swimmer, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman–as our next president.

I’d like a presidency that’s not built on brute strength and bullying. Let’s keep it an elected office. I’d like a president who actually knows our constitution and shows some signs of being able to govern. The men on Charlie’s show Monday night gave a polished view of what happened at and before the debate, and gave opinions on what might happen in the remaining days till the election, but they missed something crucial. They missed what women felt in their bones.