We’ve now heard stories from colleagues who had to endure leering and off-color jokes and outright passes from men they reported to; who had to physically push male colleagues off them on work trips overseas; or who left jobs that they otherwise loved because they just couldn’t handle being talked over and condescended to and treated like a naive newbie day after day, after working so hard for so many years. I didn’t know the depth of the problem, and I don’t think it’s because I was willfully blind or uniquely unaware. Part of it was that women haven’t felt able to report many of these experiences — they have come to believe that public silence was their only viable option. And that is perhaps the most insidious thing of all.
But I can’t let myself off the hook, either. I wasn’t oblivious to the mansplaining that is rampant in Washington (and perhaps everywhere), or to the fact that many meetings were comprised of almost exclusively men around the table and on the secure video screens. And if I’m being fully honest, at the time it bothered me, but not enough. When the meetings were about pressing national security issues, we didn’t need to focus on the gender representation in the room, right? Didn’t we have bigger things to worry about?