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What We Owe Other Women After Last Week

What We Owe Other Women After Last Week

Where were you?

I was in the departure lounge at O’Hare airport, tears streaming down my face for her. Seeing other women, watching, looking stricken.

And since then, every time I catch a clip of her testifying, I get a catch in my throat. Her bravery in coming forward — the bravery of all survivors, regardless of gender, in coming forward.

Were you texting with your high school and college friends during her testimony? And during his?

So was I.

“Doesn’t she remind of you of (insert name of young woman you haven’t thought about in years here)? Remember when she was attacked her freshman year?” “Doesn’t he remind you of that DKE who used to get ugly drunk?” “No, he reminds me of that Beta who used to talk about how much he liked beer.”

And, importantly, for some of us: “How did we make it through high school and college safely? Why didn’t that happen to us?”

The answer keeps coming back to “Because we had each other. Because we looked out for each other. Because we never left a party without each other.”

The ongoing joke was that we traveled in packs, even to the bathroom. You’re damn right we did.

Until we didn’t.

Until we got into the “real world” — be that the business world, or academia, or medicine, or any other career path — and were separated. Each woman for herself, competing against each other for that scarce resource: that rare seat at the table.

And so the other group texts and conversations I’m a part of, again and again, are among the women who’ve “made it” — those who navigated their way to the top against crushing odds, who sacrificed and worked hard enough to be better-enough-than-the-guys* to get there.

Those conversations go along the lines of: Look at what Dr. Ford has done for survivors, the sacrifice she has made. What can we do? What should we do? What do we owe other women, particularly younger women? Do we owe them anything?

If they speak out, do we owe them our belief? Do we owe them the benefit of the doubt, even if they’re not “perfect”?

Do we owe them our advice, our mentoring, trying to even the playing field for them, referring business to them? Do we owe them an easier path than ours?

And — now it gets really tough — how do we think about the businesses and institutions in which we were successful, but that have not supported the success of our sisters? Is it our responsibility to engage with them to effect change? Do we call them out? What if this hurts our own careers? Is being a role model enough? Or will I regret not doing more??

We’re each answering these questions for ourselves … but what’s clear is that whatever we were doing before has not been enough to move us to a truly level playing field.

When I read the Wall Street Journal op-ed that summarily dismissed Dr. Ford and her experiences, it lit me up. What I can do is use my experience, built over decades, to work to help get more money to women. (And I dare anyone to read the perspective of that op-ed — from the paper of record for Wall Street and the investing industry — and feel surprised that the wealth management industry has been ranked #1 in the incidence of sexual harassment across a range of industries. I dare them to then make the argument that women don’t need an investing firm built for them. Really, don’t even.)

I keep thinking of the line, “When a woman speaks up for herself, she speaks up for all women.” I would slightly alter it: “When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford spoke up for herself, she spoke up for all women. And all survivors, female and male.” And I keep coming back to the thought that the only way we make progress is by coming together and actively supporting each other.

I know; I’m tired too. Bone tired. But our work is far from done. How do we each honor her bravery?

*Not my opinion. Just citing the research that says white males are promoted based on potential while women and people of color are promoted based on achievement ... meaning the bar is higher for them.

This article was originally published in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle. You can learn more here.

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