Seems like every time I go about writing, the timing falls during a period of change. Elections, seasons, holidays, and so on. Probably, the act of writing gets me thinking about what’s going on around me, and I can’t help but observe that we are living in a time of monumental change. Then, the realist in me speaks up and I wonder, is our time in history any more chaotic than any other? Not sure, but I’ll bet a social scientist is working on it, crunching the numbers.
The change I’ve been thinking about a lot lately has to do with the #MeToo movement and the survey results that came out in the LP Magazine regarding women in loss prevention. I hesitate to wade into this pool because it seems too easy, too rote, too cliché at this point. “Oh, wow, another woman with a story about #MeToo. Yawn.” We seem to be getting de-sensitized to these stories. Is it really even worth it to add my two cents to the millions already out there? I find when I can’t sleep, and something keeps nagging me at night, I need to get it out of my system, and thank goodness there’s a notepad by my bed exactly for this purpose. With notes made, I wavered between wading in slowly or diving in head first. Was this topic too risky for a blog? Would it offend someone who might be interested in doing business with me? Am I the only one who feels this way? Maybe I’m paranoid and too thin-skinned? I agonized over it, but finally I realized that if these things are bothering me, maybe someone out there will get something out of these thoughts, even if it’s only one person. Never one to do things halfway, here it goes – a purge, so to speak.
Like many women in the LP industry, I was happy to see a survey being conducted about our experience in the field, and I happily submitted my responses to the questions with all honesty. When the results arrived, what amazed me was that 500 women had responded and that 25% of them had been in LP over 20 years! It was a relief to read about so many women who seemed to have a similar background as me, and read their comments which were so similar to my experiences in response after response. Women in large numbers felt, as I do, that there isn’t enough mentorship going on. They recognized that greater strides need to be taken at senior leadership levels to include women. Respondents also felt strongly, as I do, that our fate is in our own hands and that we must be our own best advocates. I was simply shocked at how closely it all matched the way I felt.
But, to me, something was missing. In a male-dominated industry, where recruitment and development of women has been a focus for years, why haven’t there been more strides made at a faster pace? Knowing that no survey could be all-encompassing, could there be an X-factor that may not have been addressed in this survey? I’m talking about harassment. And now, here’s where I purge the thoughts and memories that have been needling me. I have endured my own #MeToo moments in the past—yes, moments, plural—while working in both LP and on the solution provider side as well. And guess what? Those moments have continued as recently as this year, when at one of the industry events I attended, someone thought it would be appropriate to grope me as I was walking through a crowd. You’d think that, with every news station blaring story after story almost daily, these situations would stop, or at least that we’d get a break.
Nope. I’ve talked to woman after woman who has been harassed and I must wonder, is this part of the reason why we don’t attract more women to this industry, retain them and promote them to senior leadership? Are they getting fed up and leaving after years of harassment? Or are they quitting after two weeks on the job dealing with this type of treatment? Obviously, not every woman in LP is harassed, but shouldn’t we seriously ask ourselves about the treatment of women on the job in LP and whether this kind of thing might play a role?
My brushes with #MeToo started early. The inaugural was at my very first LP job in college, the first week on the job. A co-worker did something so awful that when I think about it today, I can’t believe I didn’t walk out. Most likely out of shock and naivete I stayed, just happy to have a job in my field of study. Over the years as the incidences continued, I tended to ignore them or blame myself, and I stayed. I was humiliated by sexual comments and gestures by someone in power in a room full of executives, and I stayed. I’ve been groped and cornered and followed, and I stayed. I’ve been stared at and mocked and patronized, and I stayed. I was told, “I can’t do business with you because of the way you look,” and I stayed. I’ve stayed in the industry for a variety reasons – some were financial, others had to do with the personal investment made in my career and a passion for what I do, and some were just me being stubborn. What I can tell you is that there were many times I felt like walking away, and I understand why other women make that choice.
If you are a man in LP, I encourage you to ask women you work with or know in the trade if they have experienced harassment. By learning from their experience, you can help stop it when you see it happening, which is something your female colleagues will be grateful for. Once you hear their personal stories and put a face with all this #MeToo stuff, trust me – you will be outraged and, hopefully, inspired to make a difference. If you are a woman in LP, ask other women about their experiences. If you haven’t been harassed yourself, it’s still important to know what others have been through and how you might be able to help in the future.
So, with all this said, the next time we ask the question of why there aren’t more women in LP, couldn’t we expand the inquiry a bit more to include the unpleasant but still very relevant subject of #MeToo? Thinking that it’s not there will not make it go away.
Stefanie is a regular contributor to the work of the International Association of Interviewers. To enjoy other great content from her and other contributors, please visit CertifiedInterviewer.com