Sexual Harassment at Work?

Hi Brooke,

This whole sexual harassment issue exploding right now is something that doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve been dealing with it my whole career. I work in technology and so work around a lot of men. I have to say, though, even though these stories that are coming out are horrible, there’s part of me that feels that its nice to know that I’m not the only one.

Anyway, I’m realizing how much this issue taints my thinking at work. I’m really careful to avoid certain situations (anything social that is outside of work for example) or being alone with men. I’m also really careful about what I wear to the point of paranoia. I think thoughts like if I wear this item of clothing, like a particular boot that has a metallic blue on it (I’m really into fashion and love putting together outfits), will it be too sexy even though what I wear is really conservative. Its crazy making.

But what I wear is just one aspect of the larger issue. I’ve started a new job a few months ago and there are a lot of men there, probably more so than other jobs I’ve had even. In fact, the ratio is probably like 10 men to 1 woman. All of the members on my product team are men so I’m the only woman in many of my meetings.

The problem that keeps coming up is, and its been a recurring problem in other jobs, is how to act around these men. Invariably someone will come on to me in one form or another. It just always happens even when I convince myself that it won’t, it always does. In this job, its the product manager that I’m having issues with. He’s a lot younger than I and very handsome and smart. If I were younger, I would definitely be interested but it just seems silly to even imagine it because of the age difference. My behavior has been to just keep everything really professional and let him know through my behavior that I’m not interested in anything more.

But I think he’s taking it as some form of rejection because he’s become really nasty with me. He gets really angry at me in meetings in front of the whole team. I feel humiliated and embarrassed. But I’ve been trying to just roll with it and not let it lead to questioning myself and my capability and confidence. But it kinda sucks and I started to feel it was affecting my confidence a little last week. At that point, I just removed myself from being in meetings with him (physically in the room) and opted to just do meeting remotely. That helped relieve the tension a bit…

So I dunno, the same thing happened with the last product manager I worked with. Once he realized, I wasn’t going to have an affair with him, he started making my job really difficult. I work very closely with product manager so if I don’t have a good working relationship with them, it makes doing my job really hard.

Also, I can tell that people are so on edge about all the sexual harassment stuff that its in the news, its been drilled into them to not do it. I literally have seen men that walk by me and will not even look at me, they literally look away everytime I walk by them and will not say hello or even acknowledge me. Its weird but I definitely prefer that to having to deal with being hit on!

But I’m also seeing it as a handicap in other ways though. Its great that I don’t have to deal with it in some ways but I’m also concerned that it will hinder me. Like I may not get the opportunities that other people would because they don’t want the potential liability. (I’ve even proactively decided to not attend social events, like the recent xmas party, because I don’t want to be exposed to that potential.) I know this probably sounds really paranoid but its very real for me. It has affected how i do my job as I started contracting and working from home for many years partially so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

Now with the most recent thing with my product manager I really feel like I’m not sure what to do. I feel like I’m really good at my job but then the male/female dynamic always seems to dominate and then it doesn’t matter if I’m good at my job. Or maybe that’s why the male/female dynamic starts to dominate? Feels like a lose/lose. If I do my job really well, I inevitably get undermined by some higher up male coming on to me, but if I just do an average job then maybe I won’t. (I don’t know, I never have because I take a lot of pride in my work but maybe that’s not really helping me ultimately.)

If I just do an average job, maybe it will improve the dynamic? That seems like such a silly thought but I wonder if I would feel happier. Because one of the things that pisses me off so much about this dynamic is that it doesn’t matter if I do an outstanding job, because ultimately I’m valued more for my sexuality. Ughh.