Read “Whistleblower” Right Now

By Peter Zaballos

In the space of a few hours I devoured Susan Fowler’s incredible story of strength — “Whistleblower” — and you should too. Right now.

The bravery this woman demonstrated, telling a story of harassment and mistreatment that is sadly prevalent, is as important. The strength it must have taken her to press “publish” on her blog post, not knowing the impact or the consequences, is simply staggering.

Her story shines a light on what women confront every day. And men may either see it happening or are perhaps a party to, and in any case most certainly are not doing enough about ending the behavior.

MEN DON’T SEE OR FEEL WHAT WOMEN EXPERIENCE

That’s right. Women put up with significant – for lack of a better term – abuse – that men simply don’t. And worse, that men don’t even see it or are aware of it. They may not be aware of it for benign reasons – perhaps you can’t see what you haven’t yet experienced yourself. And they may not be aware of it because they are the perpetrator of the abuse. But the difference between the paths men and women traverse each day is real, and significant.

There’s the sexual abuse of being cat-called when walking down the street. Being touched inappropriately and the unwanted and unwelcome hugging. Or being told something offensive – a joke or a reference to their body – and then being admonished for not going alond with “the joke.”

Put another way, men simply don’t worry about the following:

  • Walk down a street at night, by themselves
  • Go for a run or bike ride, by themselves
  • Walk past a group of the opposite sex
  • Meet a member of the opposite sex in a business context without worrying about a sexual advance

I have lost count of the women who have told me this is their DAILY life. This list is as sobering as it is horrifying. And men never worry about having any of these circumstances happen to them. And what they don’t see, they often don’t feel or believe.

WHAT SUSAN DESCRIBES IS REAL

Being a woman is hard enough, but what’s worse is not even being able to do your job – the one place which should be a safe place to be yourself and do your best work. And in the last ten years of my career, the more I took the time to speak with the women on my teams and in the companies I have worked for, I can say that Susan’s treatment is not uncommon.

I have spoken to tens of women who have described major and minor acts of abuse. There’s the daily intellectual abuse of being talked over, having ideas appropriated, or being simply ignored or dismissed because they are women. And then there’s sexual abuse or even assualt. And as Susan so bravely points out, there can be shocklingly little in terms of protecting women, with limited or no options to respond.

Susan Fowler is courageous because she wrote about what she experienced not knowing what the consequences would be for her. And the consequences in the short term were huge — (did she lose her job? Spell out the consequence for those who don’t remember the details of the story). And, we learn in the book, this was not her first experience speaking out and paying dearly for her bravery and honesty. What she endured at Penn pursuing her degree (or rather, degrees) was horrifying.

READ WHISTLEBLOWER, NOW

Please buy and read Whistleblower. It will show you in searing detail what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated culture. It is extreme. Uber was much worse than many companies, but what she experiences there is a reflection of what women experience in general as they make their way through careers, and life.

Thank you, Susan for being brave enough to share your story. We all now have the obligation to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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