Well, the past couple of weeks seem to have been all-Harvey-Weinstein-all-the-time. Yuck. When I’ve gotten together with my girlfriends since the news broke, each of us shared our “powerful man made a pass at me at work” story.
Him: A name you would know from finance and government. Let’s call him Mr. X. (Wonder why I'm not naming him? Read more below.)
Me: At the time I was the Director of Research at Sanford C. Bernstein.
Location: Bernstein’s big research conference, which was my responsibility. Mr. X was the luncheon keynote speaker.
The Moment: After he had spoken and the room had mostly cleared (except for some of my colleagues), I went over to thank him.
His Actions: He invited me to his hotel room, while sticking out his tongue and wiggling it at me, making this weird guttural noise. I guess it was supposed to be sexy. I got out of there as quickly as I could after I fake-laughed in front my colleagues who saw the whole thing, as a means of hiding my embarrassment.
Now this is different from many of the stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein or venture capitalists or the crew at Fox because I never felt threatened or compromised.
Weirded out, yes. A bit confused, maybe. Gobsmacked, certainly, thinking: “Mr. X? Really? Who would have guessed?” But not threatened. Infuriatingly, this wasn’t my first time being harassed at work: earlier in my career, I had daily photocopies of male genitalia left on my desk. Thankfully, those days are long behind me. Still, it’s unsettling, in a different way, when someone is comfortable acting sexually inappropriate to your face—in front of other people.
Every once in a while, I’d ask those guys who was close enough to hear and see the whole thing: “Did Mr. X, world-renowned financier, really wiggle his tongue at me and make a guttural noise? ” Answer: “Yes. Yes, he did.”
Fast Forward, some years later I’m working at Citi, and I find out that Mr. X is up for a big-deal position there—one of those cushy jobs that famous bigwigs used to get—the large office, the private jet and very few responsibilities, except for glad-handing the VIP clients.
I scheduled time with the company’s CEO and told him that I was against the hire and described this Mr. X’s inappropriate behavior. When the CEO “tried to reason with me,” suggesting that perhaps I had misunderstood his signals, I told him that I would quit—and not quietly—if this jerk was brought on because I would feel we were knowingly bringing in a potential predator (and, for sure, a creep).
So Mr. X likely doesn't know it, but his inappropriate, creepy, skin-crawling pass cost him that job. And it cost him big time.
Why am I not naming him?
I’ve thought long and hard about that question. Each of us has to make our own decision about something like this. My decision is not to, since the power dynamic was not tilted as dramatically in his favor as with Harvey Weinstein, and also I wasn’t forced into a compromised position. And most of all, Mr. X’s actions toward me cost him a lot of money in the long run.
Because of good luck, timing, my years of hard, hard work and having built a solid reputation as a female executive woman on Wall Street, this guy lost millions of dollars on an opportunity because I was able to say “no, he can’t.” And since then I’ve noticed he hasn’t been in any high-level position to intimidate women.
I recognize how incredibly fortunate I was that the balance of power was in my favor, and that I had a boss who after a bit of debate took my advice.
Women today are finding power in calling these predators out publicly and amplifying these events, and by supporting each other when we do. This is why I'm so focused on the issues of women, because at the heart of all this, for us women this is all about power, freedom, and being able to say, “take this job and shove it.” I want all of us to have that power.
Something is shifting, and it’s important. As Kate McKinnon’s character said on this week’s Saturday Night Live, “Pandora’s box is open, and Pandora’s pissed.”
Financial feminist Sallie Krawcheck is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, a recently launched innovative digital investment platform for women. She is chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional woman’s network, and of the Pax Ellevate Global Woman’s Index Fund, which invests in the top-rated companies in the world for advancing women. She is also the best-selling author of “Own It: The Power of Women at Work.”