Finding Your Voice When You’re Discriminated Against at Work as a Woman

Losing a toxic job can be the most positive thing that ever happens to you. It took considerable time for me to write these words, but it’s true. Hey, we live in a dog-eat-dog society. Much of your sense of security and happiness rests with your employer. The course of any professional relationship never necessarily runs perfectly — but there’s a big difference between disagreement and discrimination.

My Worst Experience with Workplace Discrimination

Before I experienced both discrimination and harassment, I was so excited to land my first promotion at my new job. At first, the company seemed ideal. The owner was young, around my age, and filled with passionate energy. He professed a genuine desire to help clients — not only make money — a dynamic that resulted in conflicts in previous positions I had held.

The job started well. I didn’t even mind spending long nights at the office cleaning up after the previous employee, who had left their files in shambles. I spent countless hours running damage control due to what I thought was her incompetence. Back then, I didn’t suspect that she stayed away from the office for a good reason.

Things started to go south when the owner began to work late, too. At first, things started innocently enough — after a long day, he asked for a hug. I complied. Then, the inappropriate texts began. They did nothing to help my already strained relationship with my partner at the time. These messages also crossed the line into what constitutes harassment [1].

Things Came to a Head

The matter came to a head when the owner sent me a drunk text asking whether I’d ever fantasized about being with him intimately. At the time, shock prevented me from acting. I didn’t reply, and I headed to the office the next day, as usual.

When I arrived, he called me into the office and informed me that, due to budget reasons, he decided to slash my salary by a third. I was already underpaid for my role. I had taken it with the hopes of building a lucrative career. I felt devastated. As a woman, I didn’t want my emotions to drive my decision about what to do.

The stress led me to drink to excess. Did you know that roughly 15.8 million women report handling stresses like these by abusing substances instead of taking action, often due to the fear of consequences [2]? I never knew that I was so at risk until after the fact. I began spiraling into depression. Eventually after my life all but fell apart around me, I sought the help of a qualified therapist who helped me take my voice back.

Regaining My Voice

At my therapist’s suggestion, I reached out to my local Equal Opportunity Employment Office and learned how to file a harassment claim [3]. I also found the courage to quit and begin a career elsewhere.

Today, I work in an entirely different field. I’m still waiting for an update on my case. However, I will never forget the sense of empowerment I felt when I stood up for my rights. I urge all other women to do the same.

If you feel lost and alone, reach out for support. Talk to a counselor. You can join in-person and online support groups if you don’t have health insurance — the camaraderie and advice you receive are invaluable. Investigate legal resources — nearly every town has a free legal aid society that can help in some cases.

Speak Out Against Discrimination and Harassment

Women have endured workplace discrimination and harassment for far too long. If you feel you’ve suffered unfair treatment at work, take action and regain your voice.