Why it’s Time to ‘Break the Silence on All Levels’

Written by:

Katie Mehnert

We had scheduled an event this week on workplace bullying with Bonnie Low-Kramen, an author and trainer who focuses on workplace behavior. Then came the news that Sara Sidman, a former field engineer for Schulmberger, has filed a class action $100 million lawsuit testifying “that a male coworker allegedly told others it would be OK for them to break into her bedroom and sexually assault her,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

Bullying and sexual assault are obviously different.

Researchers have found some similarities and connections between bullying and sexual harassment. But as women who are outspoken on all these issues, Low-Kramen and I both recognized that we should of course discuss this in our conversation today. And I’m so glad we did. She offered insight into just how much advancement businesses are making, and how we can all serve as allies to each other. The responses have been phenomenal.

“What we're trained to do (as women) when we're young, is to not make waves and to not cause trouble,” which translates to staying quiet, Low-Kramen said. But now, from the case of Harvey Weinstein and others that have built the #MeToo movement, to this latest one in Houston, women are speaking up, Low-Kramen said. It’s up to others to do the same. “We need to break the silence. The silence needs to be broken on all levels.”

In fact, she noted, when Time Magazine named as its “Person of the Year” the brave women who spoke up in the #MeToo movement, the publication called them “The Silence Breakers.”

“As women, our move is to collaborate and to shine a light like we're doing today,” Low-Kramen said. 

“Managers, leaders, CEOs have an obligation in our companies to make safe environments,” she added. “We need to feel safe at work. Women are out to make a living, just like men.” While there is progress being made, “I've seen the pendulum is swinging wildly right now,” Low-Kramen said. 

In fact, she warned, some male executives and managers have told her that the MeToo and Times Up movements have “gone way too far,” and that they believe the solution is to “just not hire women.” In response, she told them, “That’s a really dumb thing to say.” Low-Karmen noted, as I’ve written many times, that a more diverse and gender equal workforce is necessary to make a business successful.

Our members respond

"Women need to file grievances against bad behavior and criminality whenever possible.  So many of the pioneers in our industry did not report or laughed off slights (or worse) for the sake of keeping jobs.  My sense is that younger people have zero tolerance, which I hope leads to better behavior quickly.  It is beyond time," a 31-year experienced geologist and Pink Petro member said today in response.

For much more, including:

  • How Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis -- whom Low-Kramen worked for for many years -- had her back
  • My own story of getting tossed in the garbage by a bully, repeatedly, at school -- then finally taking her down in the boys’ bathroom (something I discuss in my book, Grow With the Flow)
  • How anyone, man or woman, can be a bully or a victim

Register to watch the full event here.

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