I don’t personally know Kelly Hoey, but I recognized her name when I came across her recent LinkedIn article. Her name was familiar because a mutual acquaintance recently tried to introduce us based on the fact that Fairygodboss has a similar mission to other companies in which she’s involved. In case our paths don’t cross, and for the benefit of everyone else, I’m sharing my response now.
First, I recommend you read the entire article, which is Kelly’s personal story about the sexism she encountered in her early career and the “tactics” she used to deal with them. As a young corporate attorney, and someone who subsequently worked in finance, her career development maps identically to my own. I’m more than decade her junior, and she started in Toronto whereas I started in New York, but otherwise, most of the little and big details of her story resonated with me (including being aware of my shoe choices on important days!). I’m willing to bet that most young female attorneys or women in revenue generating-roles in financial services can relate to her tale.
The male characters and sexism she describes are formidable in large part because these things happen early in a woman’s career. This is when she’s got the most to prove, she’s least experienced, and also has the least amount of guidance. All of these ingredients make this career “phase” a rite-of-passage for the survivors. The women who survive tend to be practical and tough. But one consequence of being “practical and tough” is often taking the side of conformity rather than change. I say this self-consciously without meaning to be critical, as someone who has managed my own rite-of-passage very similarly to the way Kelly did.
What I want to say to Kelly (and to other readers) is that while I don’t regret any of the ‘tactics’ I used to survive my own rite-of-passage, I do think women who can’t (or don’t want to) change the entire system can still tell others how it is. This is not just because this adds / changes the conversation. That’s much too “fluffy” to matter to me.
Ladies (and supportive gentlemen), this is not about changing the world head-on in some sort of sacrificial lamb way (though I’m not dissing anyone who chooses to come out more publicly). Even for those who choose to largely conform with crappy corporate cultures and suck-it-up to get ahead, this is about telling other people the truth about what that rite-of-passage even looks like. Why should you do this? At least 2 reasons:
(1) To prepare others for a potential reality. Other people can make their own decision, but they will be more prepared, or make altogether different choices if they knew what you knew. This is about helping that younger version of you, your friends, your fellow alumni, your younger sisters. Its an act of selflessness. And its not “generic” advice. This is company-specific (and even department-specific).
(2) To show the company and those individuals that there are reputational hazards to misbehavior. You don’t have to just worry about lawsuits. Word gets around and stories can get around so much more efficiently these days with anonymous reviews like the kind our members share on Fairygodboss.com. We live in a world where start-ups allow you to anonymously rate boys and people send anonymous emails. Its about time we talk openly about all the other things that really matter.