I wish I would be writing a story about four lovely women wearing designer clothes and sipping Cosmopolitans in Manhattan that never seem to let work interfere with their sex lives. Instead I am writing a story about how sex in the workplace interferes with all women's ability to achieve their full career potential.
Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon and President Moshe Katsav need to understand that they hurt all women by their actions, not just the individual women involved in their cases. Their behavior creates an uncomfortable environment for women to work in.
Since I worked on Wall Street during its heyday as a den of iniquity, I know a little about men or rather boys behaving badly.
Women on Wall Street dealt with this in a variety of ways. Some just quietly left. Talking to some of them later, they were still suffering the effects of the general environment of sexual harassment until this day. Some regretted not standing up for themselves or others.
Amanda said, "I did not feel a sense of relief when I left Merril Lynch, I felt defeated and walked out as a wimp. It took me a long time to get back my self confidence." "I will always wonder what I could have achieved," one woman said. Another told me, "I could have been as good as you if I could have stuck it out."
He could screw monkeys
Others were not individually singled out for harassment but fought the good fight for others. Kit was my sixty five year old boss Edward's secretary and she would do anything to protect him. Edward was quoted in the Pulitzer Prize winning Philadelphia Inquirer after the stock market crash of 1987. "The brokerage industry is like sex. Even when it is bad, it is good."
Sadly, Kit's job description included getting rid of twenty year old Tracy when Edward developed a crush on her. Who knows what Tracy could have achieved if she had been able to continue on in her job? Why didn't management punish Edward instead? Simple answer - He was making them money. He could screw monkeys for all they cared.
After she fired young Tracy, Kit felt guilty and eventually she left her job. "I did not come to work to fire 20-year olds whose only crime was being too sexy." But the damage did not stop there.
During this time, my assistant came to me and asked, "Why doesn't Edward like my work?" Cindy doubted her work competence. When she entered Edward's office, he was gruff with her because she was interrupting his sexual fantasies. For once in my life, I was speechless. I did not have the heart to tell her the truth.
Mary was a fifty-year old woman who never left Catholic School. She still wore full slips. She tried to complain when she found our work environment overly sexually rambunctious. Her complaints just isolated her further from the office. "Mary is no fun" was a constant refrain heard. Eventually she moved to another firm where the atmosphere was a little less chilly for prudes.
All the mistakes in my career involved accepting a drink from a superior. I accepted their invitations to be one of the guys and to advance my career. There was no thought of romance. I reasoned men at work play golf together. I thought I needed to find a way to build personal relationships.
Make work, not love
Memo to the Mr. Bigs of the Workplace – Your employees want to talk to you about work not sex. We are nice to you because you are our bosses. Sorry to disappoint you, it has nothing to do with your fleeting sex appeal.
Special note to Haim Ramon – we give our number so you can help us find a job not for a date.
After Mr. Chief Strategist of my firm, Sam Ward, invited me for a drink, my jealous boss called me "Mrs. Ward" for a week. When Edward needed more copies of Sam's latest strategy report, he had fun ordering me to call Sam.
I can still remember the anxiety of calling a VIP at my firm that I had turned down the night before. That was the day I learned the real meaning of the expression smell of fear. I did not know if he would even accept the call or how he would react.
The crudity of his proposition had stunned me the night before. "I do not want sex just a blowjob. I do not want to get aids." I did not know whether to be insulted by the assumption that I could give him aids or ask if he had any concern for reciprocity.
But I did know that I could not slap him or express my outrage because he was not just my superior but also my boss's superior. I had no choice but to run out of there with my tail between my legs.
I finally did get the reports from Mr. Chief Strategist but I always dreaded seeing him again. Since I had been too much of a coward to say anything, he always asked if I had changed my mind. Who felt bad? - Me not him.
My boss Edward only stopped calling me Mrs. Ward after I begged him and reminded him that there was a Mrs. Ward. It took a little longer for the rest of the office to stop.
The sad thing was that I never really lived down that drink. Everybody assumed that I had slept my way to the top. It did not matter that I had graduated the Wharton School, the best undergraduate business school in the country, or was a great stock picker, and an excellent cold caller. All those achievements were forgotten because of one cosmopolitan. Sex belongs in the bedroom not the workplace.
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty)