Shush! Didn’t Amy Just Write About This?

In an essay in the New York Times yesterday entitled “Elizabeth Warren Was Told to Be Quiet. Women Can Relate,” Susan Chira asked:  “Was there a woman who didn’t recognize herself in the specter of Elizabeth Warren silenced by a roomful of men? … At a meeting where you speak up, only to be cut off by a man. Where your ideas are ignored until a man repeats them and then they are pure genius — or, simply, acknowledged.”

Wait – I remember – didn’t my partner Amy Epstein Gluck do a post right here precisely on this topic not too long ago?

Yes!  She did!

The NYT essay reminded me of Amy’s post.  Amy, a top employment lawyer in Washington DC, happened to give some words of employment advice in a chance train encounter with an older man, and in response:

“He then put his hand, like a stop sign, in front of my face—yes, you read that right—and said, “Darlin’, I don’t need your advice. I have the top lawyers in Cincinnati, and they tell me it’s done, so it’s done.  Yeah, so he basically shushed me. That hasn’t happened since the ‘90’s! Yeah, so he basically shushed me. That hasn’t happened since the ‘90’s!”

In her NYT essay Susan Chira said:  “Being interrupted or ignored, and being one of the few women in the room, can be both inhibiting and enraging. You check your own perception: Was I being too aggressive, or did I really have a point? Is this about being a woman, or something else?”

Sounds like Amy’s experience.

Chira continued:

“The unpalatable truth is that women encounter this behavior in most professions. It often comes from well-intentioned men who are horrified when it is pointed out or oblivious when it is going on, as well as those who are less enlightened.

 … Most women have learned how to shrug these episodes off and muster to fight again. Unfortunately, research suggests that they too often pay a price, being labeled too aggressive. Tuesday night was another reminder, as if many women needed it, that speaking up remains an arduous and necessary task.”

Takeaway:  Ask any woman: sexism is still prevalent in the workplace and in society at large.  Men:  Take to heart the stories of these women and do a little self-examination to see if they apply to you, whether you are “well-intentioned,” “oblivious,”  or maybe “less enlightened.”


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]