Featured Stories

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70: Standing Alone

Standing Alone A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. ~Melinda Gates Paul hired me on the spot during my interview for the accounting job. I would be starting the next day. He introduced me to the ladies I’d be working with — his secretary, Susan, whose desk was just outside his office down the hall from where I would be stationed, and then two others who were in their early twenties like me. Elaina, the fourth, was much older and would be training me to do the job she would retire from in about two months. Everyone seemed welcoming. Back in Paul’s office, we concluded the interview. As I rose to leave, I extended my hand to shake his. His fingers closed around mine. His other palm rested on my forearm for a moment and then began to glide upward and down, stroking me more intimately than I was comfortable with. “You’re going to fit in just fine here,” he murmured, stepping toward me as I stepped back. I thanked him, pulled away as politely as I could, and left. Once home, I decided to dismiss the whole incident. It was the early 1970s, and that sort of behavior was still quite common. I don’t think the term “sexual harassment” even existed back then, but I was no stranger to it. Since puberty, I had been... (more)
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71: The High-Voltage Cage

The High-Voltage Cage Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. ~Harvey Fierstein I was working at AT&T. This was back when it ran the telephone business all over America, before the government broke it into pieces in the early 1980s. I’d started in a clerical position, like most women. Then, Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T, encouraged women to apply for jobs there in quality control. These were higher-paying jobs that had previously only been filled by men. I signed up, as did a few other females, and the rocky ride began. Inspecting wires can be a grueling and difficult job. Wire was often wrapped on huge reels that had to be rolled around the shop to get to the testing cage. The wire had to be stripped for testing, then attached to electronic testing kits, and this often led to voltage shocks. My female co-workers and I learned the art of guiding huge reels of ocean cable by turning the reel while it was rolling, not while it was still. We learned how to strip a wire of its jacket and how to avoid shocks. We learned about injection molding, intermittent broken wires, conductors and the need to prevent them from touching. The biggest lesson involved... (more)
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72: Grab Bag

Grab Bag I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity. ~Julius Erving Standing at her bedside, the doctor asked my seventeen-year-old daughter, “Piper, do you like school?” His crossed arms revealed his agenda to discredit her physical complaints and discharge her from the hospital. It wasn’t our first experience with this line of questioning. I knew what he was implying, and as her mom I ached to jump into the conversation to protect her, but I needed Piper to answer for herself. After all, I wouldn’t be able to safeguard her from such accusations all her life. I waited for her reply. Don’t raise your voice, I thought, or he’ll accuse you of defiance. Don’t falter, or you’ll appear unsteady, anxious. Don’t cry, or he’ll label you depressed. And, most importantly, don’t give him approval through silence. She made eye contact with the man in the lab coat looming over her, and she said, “Of course I like school. I take advanced placement classes at a private school to challenge myself, so I can get into a top university after I graduate.” That’s my girl, I thought. Nice defense. But the doctor refused to back down. “Do you find yourself missing a... (more)
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My Name Is Not Et Ux

My Name Is Not Et Ux Doing the right thing has power. ~Laura Linney I was summoned to the school office to take an “important” phone call while the principal himself covered my fourth-grade social studies class. “It’s your bank,” the secretary informed me before handing over the receiver. “They’re verifying your employment for your house loan.” “It seems we have an… irregularity… in your paperwork,” the voice on the phone informed me. “Do your children live with you full- or part-time?” “I have no biological children,” I replied. “My husband has two children who live with their mother, and they visit him every other holiday and a few weeks each summer.” “But it says the co-borrower pays child support,” she continued. “That’s right. I’m the borrower, and my husband is the co-borrower.” “That’s highly irregular,” she said. “He’s a commercial fisherman,” I told her. “My teaching income is the one we wish to base the loan on. It’s more dependable. His income fluctuates with the fish.” “Oh, my,” she stammered. “I’ve never seen paperwork with the wife listed as... (more)