“The reason there has been this explosion of frustration and outrage isn’t because every woman has been sexually assaulted at work.”
In her book, “That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together,” Joanne Lipman adds context to the conversations necessitated by the #MeToo movement. We have been hearing this collective roar from women of all strata, Lipman told me during the latest episode of “Cape Up,” “because every woman knows what it feels like to be marginalized, to be not taken seriously.”
“That’s What She Said” begins with an anecdote that is the foundation for Lipman’s book. A pleasant conversation she was having with a businessman during a flight to Des Moines soured, she said, when he asked why she was headed to Iowa. She was due to speak at a women’s conference there. “Suddenly, this lovely man totally freezes,” Lipman recounts, “he gets that deer-in-the-headlights look, and he goes, ‘Sorry I’m a man!’ ” He then told her about the two days of diversity training he’d gone through and “how awful it was.” He told her he had felt beaten up — with the ultimate message being, “It’s all your fault.” The next day, Lipman said she interrupted her speech “about the issues that we face at work” to drop a little truth. “You know what? We all know this,” she told her audience. “We really need men in the room to hear this as well.”
“I really went in search primarily of men who were trying to close the gender gap,” Lipman said in the interview at The Post last month. “Women talk among ourselves an awful lot about all of these issues, but we’re not talking to men. . . . There are many, many, many more men who would like to be part of the solution, if they had a road map.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Lipman and me discuss that road map to navigate the tension between men and women in the workplace. We also talk about her discovery that diversity training has made things worse, not only for women, but also for people of color. But there is pushback to that backlash. While prior focus has been on diversity of job applicants, attention is now being paid to the diversity of those doing the interviewing.
We have an interesting conversation about all the ways women transform themselves to “succeed in a ‘man’s world.’ ” Yes, we talked about women crying in the office and what it actually means. “What men don’t understand is that women who do cry at work, it is an expression of anger,” Lipman explained. “Men think they’re hurting the woman’s feelings. The women are just pissed off.”
Throughout our discussion, Lipman drops nuggets of data from studies to show the implicit biases that rule our lives. You’re not going to believe the math teacher study that showed discrepancies between how boys and girls were graded. And you must hear Lipman recount what she did as a cub reporter in the late 1980s, when a man she was interviewing “closes the door, he locks the door, and he strips down to his underwear.”
“After Anita Hill in 1991, we all thought the world was going to change, and that would be the end of sexual harassment,” she said. “And of course, that turned out not to be the case at all.”