SAYING NO: Women in the Workforce


We get scared of rocking the boat sometimes. That's why we don't always speak up when we want to.

Last week at work, someone reminded me that the legacy I'm leaving behind when I leave this company is my bravery.

I am a Peaceful Warrior, and I am finally ready to own that.

As such, I took that boat and tipped the mother fucker over.



I leave on Monday to go to Calgary for a Trade Show.

I'm nervous as hell. Although I've organized tons of Conferences, I've never organized a Trade Show and I'm worried about all of the things I don't know that I don't know. You know what I mean?

What I do know is that, somehow, it will all come together. In spite of certain difficulties (read: people).



From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 4, 2019 7:28 AM
To: CEO Assistant
Subject: CEO at Trade Show in Calgary

Good morning CEO Assistant,

I understand that the CEO will be joining us in Calgary in July during the Trade Show. We look forward to having her there with us!

I wanted to bring up a somewhat delicate matter, just as a ‘heads up’ that you might be able to quietly bring up to the CEO. We are all women here so I feel it’s a topic that can be understood.

There may be moments when the CEO will get to the Company booth, and it will be empty. The things is (this is the delicate and personal matter) I have endometriosis and it affects my bladder. I need to go to the washroom quite often during the day, and as such, will need to leave the booth unmanned.

This is because it has been decided that I will be working the Trade Show alone for the duration of the event. As per the attached approval memo, the budget does include one additional undetermined person to help staff the booth.

However the acting VP of Sales has decided it is unnecessary to send this extra person due to budget constraints. I completely understand. It makes me sad to know that the Company is in so much financial trouble that it cannot afford the cost of sending one extra person to help staff the biggest Trade Show in Canada.

All that to say, I don’t want the CEO to feel surprised if she comes to the booth and no one is there. I wanted to pre-emptively explain that, just in case, so if you could quietly let her know the reason why, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks so much,
Jasmin

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 4, 2019 8:50 AM
To: CEO
Cc: CEO Assistant
Subject: FW: CEO at Trade Show in Calgary

Hello CEO,

I am forwarding you this e-mail which I sent to your Assistant this morning. I realize I should perhaps have sent it directly to you.

I continuously struggle to work in an organization where my health needs as a woman are at best, ignored, and at worst, mocked by male managers. (“I can hold it for 8-hours, I don’t understand why you have to go to the washroom every hour.” This statement will make sense when you read my original email.)

It’s so exhausting to fight male managers who have ZERO understanding of some of the struggles we face as women, and who refuse to make allowances for them. I should NOT have to share my personal health issues with my managers just to TRY to get some understanding. But I have, and it still does not make a difference.

I wanted you to be aware of this situation because I feel as though most women in this organization are scared to speak up. Naturally, everyone is frightened for their jobs, and also of angering their managers. It’s quietly understood among most, if not all of us, that we will be mocked if we bring up issues that are specifically related to feminine health.

This Company makes an awfully big deal about mental health – well let me say that this is BAD for my mental health. To have any health or mental health initiatives in place, with the unspoken understanding that we as women will lose respect and be made fun of it we need to utilize them is demoralizing.

I’m tired of staying quiet. I’m fed up with the “Sois belle et tais-toi” attitude that is so pervasive in this organization.

I am leaving the Company at the end of August. My contract is over and I am not applying for my position. (I was a permanent employee and was “downsized” while I was on holidays in February, right after I had worked a Trade Show in Berlin on behalf of the Company. I was cc’d on an email – attached – that I was not supposed to see which confirmed my termination. It was not the best vacation ever, and an apology would have gone a long way.)

I feel I have nothing to lose and nothing to gain by saying all of this. My only hope is that perhaps by saying what so many are scared to, it will bring an awareness that will allow change to happen for those women who remain here at the Company.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,
Jasmin

From: CEO
Sent: July 4, 2019 1:14 PM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Cc: Director of HR
Subject: Re: CEO at Trade Show in Calgary

Jasmin

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I take your comments very seriously. I have asked the Director of Human Resources to reach out to you. I want to understand the full extent of the situation. What you are describing is disturbing and not reflective of the work environment I want at the Company.

CEO



From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 03, 2019 9:40 AM
To: Manager 2, Manager 1
Subject: Trade Show status update
Importance: High

FYI re: Trade Show

1. Product list is not yet completed by the Sales Manager. (It is two weeks overdue.)

IMPACT:

Without the list, the Sales Coordinators have not been able to ask the warehouse to put these products aside. We are 6 business days away from needing to ship our product, with no product set aside as of yet.

IT Guy needs the list by end of week or Monday AM at the latest as he will input into the Shopify interface on Monday/Tuesday. I am training with him for Shopify on Wednesday. The machine will be shipped Thursday. If it is not shipped by end of next week, someone (not me) is welcome to travel with it.

2. I will not have help at the booth. Despite the fact that an additional person has been budgeted for in our memo (attached), the acting VP of Sales has decided that this is unnecessary.

IMPACT:

Since I will be on my own, I will need to close the booth when I need to go to the washroom or take a break.

Please note that at this point, there is still time to accomplish all tasks in a reasonable time frame, without causing a fire drill for anyone.

Thanks,
Jasmin

From: Manager 2
Sent: July 3, 2019 7:22 PM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

Hi Jasmin.  Just about to board my flight for Calgary.  Have you heard anything from the Sales Manager today? As well, will he pitch in on manning the booth during show hours?

Thanks,
Manger 2

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 04, 2019 6:48 AM
To: Manager 2
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

He canceled the meeting we were supposed to have, so no we have not spoken.

From: Manager 2
Sent: July 4, 2019 9:05 AM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

Can you go up and see him?

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 04, 2019 9:08 AM
To: Manager 2
Cc: Manager 1
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

I do not have the desire to continue nagging a grown man to do his job.

From: Manager 2
Sent: July 4, 2019 9:12 AM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

I know it's not pleasant but you need to get an answer this morning. Sometimes people miss e-mails too. I know I do.

Calling people up or going to see them is the best insurance policy. In the end, it's about helping yourself more than him.

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 04, 2019 9:34 AM
To: Manager 2
Cc: Manager 1
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

No.

I am the facilitator here.

This is his Trade Show.

So it's not about helping myself, it's about him helping me to help him.

I will not put myself in the line of fire - again - to be angrily spoken down to as if I'm an irritating nag.  "Sorry to bother you but can you maybe please give me your list so I can do your work for you? Please oh please."

So again, NO.

From: Manager 1
Sent: July 4, 2019 9:35 AM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: RE: Trade Show status update

I just got off the phone with Manager 2 and he will be calling the Sales Manager right away.




From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 2, 2019 9:41 AM
To: Sales Manager
Subject: Product List for IT Guy

Hi Sales Manager,

IT Guy needs the list by end of day Thursday in order to enter all the products into the Shopify system.

Thanks,
Jasmin

From: Sales Manager
Sent: July 5, 2019 9:44 AM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: RE: Product List for IT Guy

Hello,

Good morning to you!

Did you know that IT Guy is on holidays this week?

Saw him at hockey last night. He drove down from the cottage to come play.

Happy Friday to you!

Sales Manager

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 5, 2019 11:10 AM
To: Sales Manager
Subject: RE: Product List for IT Guy

Hi,

Yes I am aware of the fact that IT Guy is on vacation.

I set the deadline for end of day yesterday because you are chronically late for everything, and I calculated that if I said end of day yesterday, perhaps he would get the list by Monday when he actually needs it.

I do not appreciate the fact that I'm being made to feel as though you're doing me a favour by providing the list of products for the Trade Show.

You giving me a list helps me to help you.

This is your Trade Show, your market, and your customers.

I am happy to coordinate, and do the best I can, but you will need to acknowledge the fact that, just because this is my job, it does not mean that you get to take my help for granted or send me passive aggressive emails. (IT Guy is on vacation and he didn't actually need the list this week - your deadline was wrong.)

My only goal here is to make this a great Trade Show. I like to think we both agree on this.

Jasmin

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 5, 2019 11:19 AM
To: Director of HR
Subject: FW: Product List for IT Guy

Hi Director of HR,

Thanks for the meeting this morning.

I sent this to the Sales Manager just now.

Do you want me to include you on such future emails, to keep you in the loop?

While I am here at the Company, I will continue to calmly and respectfully speak my truth.

Let me know your preference.

Jasmin



I will continue to calmly and respectfully speak my truth.

Yes I will.

And what, you might be wondering, motivated me to speak up? To send that note to the president and to really start pushing back?

The day before I had been out for my usual lunchtime walk and I ran into a Company employee that I hadn't seen in awhile.

I told him that I was leaving the Company.

He said "So you finally got fed up?"

"Yes. I'm DONE. I can't fight this hard anymore to prove my value to a company that seems determined not to see it."

He proceeded to list all of my virtues and the reason that everything was going to work out for me. (We always need to remember that sometimes the Universe speaks through people messengers.) He said many things but I liked best that he used the word "warmth" - that I was a warm person. I'm so glad that comes across.

He said one thing that really stuck with me though. The thing that reminded me of the legacy that I was going to leave behind at this Company.

He said:

"You know why you're going to go far? Because you have the cojones to tell people the truth about a situation. 

I was talking to my friend about you and he said "Oh that's the girl who stood up at the meeting and asked the president that question. She's brave.""

The meeting he was referring to was an employee meeting two years ago. We had a different CEO then. There had been several waves of restructuring and cutbacks; many people had lost their jobs. People were nervous, scared, and deeply uncertain.

This meeting included most our Ottawa employees, about 800 people.

The CEO always allows for questions at these meetings, but usually they are submitted ahead of time, carefully selected, with the "official response" drafted for the CEO to share.

But this time, the CEO wanted to do something different. She decided to be spontaneous, and instead take questions live. There were runners with mics in the audience and all you had to do in order to ask a question was stand-up and someone with a mic would run over.

I had a question that day. When I stood up, my heart was beating in my throat, I felt kind of sick.

It took a while for a runner to get to me, and when he finally did, and I opened my mouth, my voice wavered.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to ask this, but I've heard and been a part of too many water cooler conversations, to not ask this question now, given the opportunity. There have been many layoffs here recently. This has created an atmosphere of fear which is not conducive to having anyone do their best work. People can't focus when they are scared. And we all want to know if there are more layoffs coming. Are you planning on continuing to restructure this company?"

I got a big round of applause for that.

Eight hundred people clapping in agreement because I had said what they were all thinking.

Those were the Cojones my acquaintance was referring to, and that statement buzzed through my mind all day. And then the next day, it's what prompted me to write all of those emails.

People knew me for being brave. And I wasn't being brave in that moment because there were so many things I was silently accepting; swallowing down my angers and resentments.

Why? For fear of rocking the boat?

My legacy is my bravery. I am a Peaceful Warrior, and I am finally ready to own that.

So I took that boat and tipped the mother fucker over.




I had a meeting with the Director of HR the day after I sent that email.

When I first walked in, I felt attacked. She questioned why I had forward the email to other people. (I had sent it to half a dozen other women in BCC.) She said that someone had come to her the day before and complained; had said that my email had made them uncomfortable, that they didn't know me and that they didn't know why I had sent this email to them. She said that there was also obviously a lot of pent-up issues, and asked why I hadn't come forward sooner. She just kept saying "Why this, why that, Why now? WHY?!" in such an agitated manner that I got angry and cut her off.

"NO! This is not how this conversation is going to start, with you telling me I'm bad for doing what I did. I stand behind my actions!!"

I threw the door open and marched to the bathroom to calm down. My heart was beating like a drum in my chest and I had angry tears welling-up. I almost pushed them back down but then I thought "It's better in here than in there" so I let them fall.

After a few minutes, I walked back into her office and sat down. And we talked.

She apologized for the way things started.

I explained to her that I had forwarded the email to the women I did in order to let them know the door was open so that they too could share their experiences. I'm not the only woman who has been treated badly and unfairly by the men in this Company, and every woman I had forward the email to had at one time or another come to me to vent about this.

In these situations, someone has to be brave enough to speak up first. And then somehow, when others see that that person hasn't been struck down by lightning for doing so, they feel as though they're able to speak up too.

It's very difficult to go first because of the uncertainty of the result of taking a stand; it's less challenging (although still not easy) to step under the umbrella of the person who has already spoken up and agree with them.

But I don't mind going first. I never have. I don't mind risking ridicule to speak a truth that affects me and those around me. Not only do I not mind, but I know that's why I was given the powerful voice and strength of spirit that I have been.

I need to use it.


This is what me stepping into my power means for me; it means stepping into the fullness of my being and I do declare that is in the role of a Peaceful Warrior.




Vulnerability is our most accurate way to measure courage as researchers; we can measure how brave you are by how vulnerable you're willing to be.
- Brene Brown

When I hit send on every single one of those e-mails, my heart was beating in my throat. (My throat chakra which had been blocked for so long was unblocking.)

I was sweating. (I literally had beads of sweat running down my arms to the point where I had to stick wads of kleenex into my pits.)

But I did it anyway.

I will admit that in one way, I was in a good position to do this because I'm leaving this Company at the end of August, and I was prepared to walk out that day if I had to.

But still. It wasn't the easy thing to do. The easy thing would have been to silently and angrily walk away. Which is what most people do. But my mission on earth (should I choose to accept it - which I have) is to be BRAVE with my life and inspire others to do the same.

The HR Director had asked me at the beginning of our meeting why I was speaking up now."There's obviously a lot of pent-up anger and frustrations here, why are you only saying all of this now?!"

I hadn't answered when she'd asked at the beginning of the meeting.

But I did answer at the end.

"My father was physically abusive until I was 23 years old. I didn't know that I was allowed to say no until recently. There's nothing about being abused that teaches anyone about boundaries or that I don't have to let people do whatever they want to me. I've been going to therapy and working on my issues, and now that I've finally found my voice, I won't stay quiet anymore."

At the end of the meeting, the HR director asked me what I wanted out of this.

"Well I want things to change for the women in this company. For myself, all I want is help at the Trade Show in Calgary. It's the biggest Trade Show in Canada and the fact that I'm expected to do this alone is ridiculous. We are the biggest exhibitors there, so let's look like professionals and have two people at our booth. And when I need to pee, I'd like to be able to do that."




Remember that one person who complained? Who said my email made her uncomfortable and that she didn't know why I had sent it to her because she didn't know me?


Remember that one person who'd complained about my having sent her my email?

Based on the feedback I received, and a process of elimination, I figured out who that person was. I sent her a short e-mail.

From: Wolf, Jasmin
Sent: July 5, 2019 11:34 AM
To: Snake, Traitorous
Subject: Apologies

Hi Snake,

I’m checking to see if my email yesterday made you uncomfortable?

If so, I do apologize.

I sent it to you because I felt that you and I had a good rapport from the day we met.

I certainly did not mean to cause any harm.

Have a good weekend,
Jasmin

She didn't respond, and I know she was in the office that day, thereby confirming my suspicions. If it wasn't her, based on the rapport I thought we had, she would have responded right away along the lines of "Oh my goodness, no, not at all! I saw it but I was crazy busy, but good for you for speaking up!"

Instead, silence.

I forward the apology email to the HR Director and said that I was willing to apologize to anyone else I had made uncomfortable.

The HR Director said "There are no further apologies necessary."

Meaning the only person I apologized to is the one who took a stand against me.

This woman had cried in my cubicle over her marital problems, life struggles, self-worth issues. I had hugged her, comforted her. We had exchanged gifts at Christmas.

Now mind you, we had not spoken in a few months, because she moved to another building, and I was working hard trying to keep from losing my mind at work, but I always said hello when I saw her, asked how she was.

So... Et tu Brute?




Now, putting aside the one Traitorous Snake who sold me down the river, I only got positive responses.

"You did a very good thing for the women in this Company."

"Good for you Jasmin! You are very brave and I admire your honesty. At least you'll be able to sleep at night and look at your beautiful self in the mirror. I will be sad to see you go but so happy for your next adventure."

"Very well written!! I completely understand and as you know I have been through the same experiences. I really do hope you get some positive feedback and most of all I hope this will start to make a difference in this place! It's been happening for too long and no support!! It takes courage and I really admire that."

"I know exactly where you are coming from and can relate as I have lived very similar situations in the past. I used to be excited and eager to work Trade Shows, but my passion quickly dissipated over the years because of these kinds of behaviours. You are a brave woman Jasmin! You have my respect and support."

"You are a strong and determined woman. All your friends and people around you are lucky to enjoy your presence. I wish the best to you in the near and long future, it has been a pleasure to meet you and understand how valuable and special a person you are."

"OMG!! You are amazing!! I need to learn from you!! Have you considered coaching in your next career move?"


From: Jake, Colin
Sent: July 9, 2019 12:59 AM
To: Wolf, Jasmin
Subject: Calgary Event

Hi Jasmin,

Looks like I am accompanying you to the event next week!

Would you have any details yet about the flights, hotels etc? I am in the process of booking everything.

Also, do you have POS training?

Colin Jake*
Account Manager

*(FYI, this young man's name isn't really Colin Jake, he just looks like the love child of Colin Farrell and Jake Gyllenhaal, so I took some creative liberties.)

SUCCESS!!! This wasn't going to be a one-woman Trade Show after all!

Ask and ye shall receive.  (Ok, more like: possibly put your job on the line, speak to the right people, meet with HR, get yelled at by HR, yell at HR, send more emails, and FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT, and then you might get what you asked for.)

Colin and I met several times last week to go over logistics and the subject of my leaving came up. I hesitated in responding and he said "It's ok, you don't have to answer."

So...I just forward him the email I sent to the president instead, with this header:

From: Wolf, Jasmin 
Sent: July 11, 2019 2:01 PM
To: Jake, Colin
Subject: In response to yesterday's question

Colin,

You asked me a question yesterday. This was the best way I could answer. And I thought it was important to answer because change can only happen through awareness, so having others know is the only way.

I shouldn’t have to fight the people I work for to be allowed to do a great job, or to have my basic rights as person acknowledged. The thing is, I know that I’m not the only person here who feels like this and that’s just not ok.

I wanted to share this email because the truth is always better than rumours, and I know that right now, there are people who are looking forward to me leaving because someone who has the cojones to speak up is not always welcome by everyone.

However, I will say this, I got a positive response from the CEO. She seems to be someone who is genuinely interested in the well-being of employees. I believe (and hope) that with her at the helm, maybe things might actually get better for everyone. (You’ll have to keep me posted.)

I had to fight hard to get help in Calgary, and I’m glad I did. And that’s why I’m grateful to you Colin, for your positive attitude. It makes me feel relieved to know I don’t have to do this thing alone and I know this Trade Show is going to go perfectly.

Have a fantastic day.

Jasmin





It's sad but true that we as women fear for our safety on daily basis.

Men are scared of being laughed at.

I was terrified after I sent those emails.

I was scared that maybe one of the men I had answered back to or was filing a complaint against might follow me to my car and beat me.

I was scared that they might find out where I park and slash my tires.

Why? Why was I so scared?

My father taught me that speaking up would always have bad consequences for me. Every time I spoke my truth (which was almost always in direct opposition to him) I would earn myself a beating.

I don't know if that fear will ever go away.

But I had to speak up because I am just a little over a year away from my 40th birthday and it's about time I learned how to say no in general, and no to men specifically.

I want to be clear that this is not about hating on men. I love men, I think there are some good ones out there. But there are some bad ones too (just like there are some bad women).

I'm not against any gender: I am against any person using whatever team they are on to oppress another team. (Gender, Religion, Race...Sports! Whatever.)
Because you are not on my team, I will OPPRESS you.
That is not ok.

The reality is that women are in the workforce (and have been since the first World War) and we have valuable contributions to make.

So if you want us there, level the damn playing field.

Now although men and women are equals, we are NOT THE SAME and those difference need to be respected and accounted for. (I am happy for and envious of your gigantic man-sized bladder, but unfortunately I do not possess one of those. As a woman, I am generally smaller than you, and my internal southern region contains more equipment than yours. I carry with me daily a machine which turns your sperm into babies, and I also carry the baby growing house inside my body for the duration of my life, regardless of whether I have a baby or not. So you will have to excuse me if my understandably smaller bladder causes any inconveniences for you.)

The fact that we are 6-months away from the year 2020 and this is a battle that still needs to be fought is absolutely ridiculous. But fight we must because there is no other option.

Someone has to stand-up first for things to change. And I will fight this battle. The sequence of events that my emails unleashed has barely begun to happen yet.

(One of the women I sent my email to stepped forward and filed an official report with HR against the same man who has issues with my bladder. Three of the other women will be interviewed next week. Seems that this man has a special skill for oppressing women #misogynist)

Watch this space...


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