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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Nickel

Until it Happens to You…

Two experiences from yesterday are the impetus for this blog post, demonstrating that we have further work to do as a society to create places for respectable discourse and the exchange of opinions and ideas, and to eradicate sexism in all of our workplaces.

In a meeting yesterday with executives who have high level positions locally and who are well respected in the community, (some because of their past employment in professional sports leagues), I was mistakenly referred to as the “Project Secretary.” I am actually the Lead Consultant on the project and have worked pro-bono for two years to assist this group in raising funds for scholarships for students who often fall through the cracks when it comes to post secondary tuition support. The person who called me a “Secretary” was a periphery member of the group who I have had very little interaction with over the past two years. In fact, I don’t even remember meeting him, although he said yesterday that we had met a few months ago. He is a business owner and looks to be around half a century in age.

I do not have an issue with being called a Secretary, as I am often the self-appointed scribe in meetings because I like to take copious notes. And, believe me, I understand the importance and value that secretaries and assistants bring to any work team…it’s just the offensive way that I was referred to, the tone of condescendence in the referral, and the wide eyed and wide mouthed reactions that all the other team members at the table openly shared when this went down. Lucky for me and for all of us, this guy was immediately corrected in front of his peers. Unfortunately, his lack luster reaction and lack of an apology for his misstep followed his egregious mistake. I sighed, probably did an eye roll, and went on with the meeting.

A few hours later, someone posted on a friend’s Facebook feed a disparaging comment about immigrants as a reaction to the tragedy that occurred in New York City.  All of the facts had not yet been aired yet and there was much speculation (and there still is) on the motive for such a horrible act of violence. What we did know at that time is that the suspect has lived in the states for over five years and was likely radicalized in the U.S.  Only time and an investigation will get to the bottom of this.

Stopping folks from immigrating to the U.S. from certain countries is a divisive topic, and I can sympathize with opinions from both sides of this argument, but I am smart enough to know that this issue needs to be decided in a bi-partisan way, and that “blaming liberals for letting terrorists into America” (which is what this guy posted) is not the way to solve the problem. Blamers and haters just instill chaos and unrest. They make our world even more complicated to navigate. Getting to the bottom of issues by having genuine, open minded discussions and discourse, with people who really want to solve issues for the betterment of our society…well, that is where I am going to put my efforts.

My reply to this angry and accusing person after he called me an “idiot” was a retaliation that I am still giggling about, even though I know it probably will stir the pot more. Sometimes, I have to abandon some of my angelic and altruistic practices and embrace and channel my competitive eight year old self. I replied, “I’m rubber and you are glue, and I am just sad that there are people like you.” I really want to have a conversation though, when things settle down, because I am haunted that folks can draw a straight line from A to B without all the facts. It’s scary, reckless, impulsive and sad. And it is feeding a culture of hate, one that I can’t stand by and watch happen any longer.

Let’s talk to each other, let’s turn all these recent and hidden away stories of sexism, hate, terrorism and sexual harassment into something that will become educational moments, something of excellence and let’s become a better civilization for it. (How I miss seeing Oprah every day!)

I’d like to hear about your experiences with these topics and how you are handling them. What’s working and what isn’t, let’s get a dialogue going!

-Grace Alfiero

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