How I Overcame Workplace Discrimination

Overcame Workplace Discrimination

Well being that we are wrapping up on WOMAN’S MARCH WEEKEND– what better way to finish it out than talk about this subject!?

I remember distinctly the day I first realized I wanted to embark into the business arena.  I was fifteen years old.  Most women at that age, probably aren’t as career driven as I was.  I remember my thinking my dad was the coolest business guy I knew.  My mom was (and still is) an entrepreneur, so I guess I had the DNA engrained in me from the womb.

I recall my dad warning me that the business world was ruthless when I first expressed my interest in CEO life.  He lovingly warned me that being a woman, unfortunately I was going to have to work twice as hard.  My dad has always been of the “equal” opportunity employer mindset, always supported my mom in her endeavors as an entrepreneur; so the question of whether I could do it or not never crossed his mind.  More than anything, looking back, I realized he was only doing what any dad would normally do for his daughter— protect her.

So, although I knew the concept of discrimination in the workplace existed, and I had studied it in history classes, I was a bit naive that pay discrimination still existed.  I was further deceived thinking women in the workplace had an equal shot at any position within a corporation; especially the larger corporations that tend to air on the more liberal side of things.  Now I am not here to get into a political debate, please make no mistake about that.  That is not the point of the story, although I know some people would want to make it about that.

I started in the corporate arena at a very young age.  I was 20 years old when I met Howard Shultz in person for the first time.  He was warm, inviting, and had a zealous business savvy that was infectious.  You could feel his dream come alive as he spoke about his adventure in creating the now worldwide brand, Starbucks Coffee Company. He was the one who told me to just go for it (whatever it was my business heart desired.)  So I did.  I ended up working for Starbucks for four years– and that’s what jump started my (eventual) twelve year journey in the corporate arena.  From there, I went into the banking industry and did well in my three year run and finally, made the transition into the textile industry; which typically is a predominately male dominated industry.

At the time I entered into my first high level management position, I was one of only three females on the West Coast in my position and the only one in Washington State.  Through the seven years I was with that company, I had taken three territories from the bottom 10% of the company to the top 25%, achieved the highest bonus pay out of all of my colleagues, and ended up being one of only two females who earned the “second in command” position in the third largest profit center in the country.  I had completely blown the lid off the idea of “this was a man’s industry.”

The moment my career came to both a screeching and prayed for halt, the halt is what I prayed for, but the “screech” took me by surprise.  After being told my position was being eliminated company wide, I had been given the choice of taking a lower paying position or a severance– I chose the severance.  I was ready to move on. What I was not prepared for however, was finding out they moved a man into my so-called “eliminated” position, who had far less qualifications than I had, and ended up being paid more just six weeks after I had left.  I ran it by one of my solid, trusted colleagues (who also happened to be an IPA attorney) and after her research she advised I take it to the state to see if it in fact was true— I’d had been let go because I was a woman. A few months later, I had a state investigator contact me and advise that according to the specific coding that my former company had used, that it in fact was evident the entire move was made just as my attorney colleague had suspected. I had suspected it from day one, but I just didn’t have the energy to really pursue it.

My first reaction was…”finally, some closure.” But after I thought about it a bit more, it really opened my eyes to the fact that discrimination really does still exist.  And not just in the workplace, but on so many more things we turn a blind eye to. We turn a blind eye because we don’t want to address it or talk about it.  The whole thing just felt crappy.  On one hand I was relieved and super thankful I was not a part of that organization any longer, but so disheartened that even in 2016 (at the time I found out)— we still have that stuff happening every day…all around us.  What it also taught me was that I too needed to open my eyes more.  If I was missing what was happening right under my own nose (to me) and didn’t see it coming, what could I do to be a catalyst for change in other areas where diversity and equality may not exist?  I asked myself, “How can I be an agent of change THROUGH this situation, and not a complain agent IN this situation?”  The state investigator asked if I wanted to look at pressing charges– to which my answer was, “No.”  First and foremost, pressing charges doesn’t come from a place of love, no matter how bad the situation was, is, or could have been. If Jesus were walking the earth today, I believe He would have told me the same thing.  He would expect that I lead through it, just like He lead through His own persecutions. I wouldn’t be pressing charges out of love…it would just be out of anger and hate. And that is NOT Jesus.

gretchen barocio
Gretchen Barocio – Author of Fiercely You and Creator of #THEGIRLPRENEUR

The moment I step away from and look at things through any other lens than the lens of “love”– I am headed down a slippery slope.  Was it gut-wrenching to think that just because I was female there were still certain things certain people thought, and felt I shouldn’t or couldn’t do?  Absolutely.  It’s was a terrible feeling.  But feelings are futile. They are temporary and won’t last.  But the impact of my words and actions— that’s what lasts.  My emotions….they’ll die off eventually.

 

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