Wednesday, August 22, 2007


There are situations no textbook or training programs that could prepare a woman on how to handle behaviors that are inappropriate in business settings. I take pride in being strong, assertive while maintain the highest level of professionalism. This week, an incident took place at a work-related function caused me to question my inner strength and my place in the industry that is still a man's world. Or perhaps some men in the construction industry are not yet evolved from its ape-form and the caveman mentality.

During our golf tournament where 99% of the golfers are men, I tried very hard to be courteous yet keeping the distance. One of my responsibilities was taking photos of the teams. As I checked off the list of the teams that was photographed, a man in the group put a golf club betwen his legs, moving it up and down in a sexual suggested manner, looking straight at me, saying "How do you like that?" I decided to ignore his comment and walked away. The other men (the witnesses) in the group told the "fool" to behave himself. I later reported the incident to the president and the executive director of the organization. They promised me that they would take appropriate action by banning the person ever participating in future activities sponsored by the organization.

This was not the first time I as a woman working in the construction industry endured such inappropriate behavior. In 2004, a guest came up to me after a meeting, making kissing sounds and commented, "How about some sugar, baby?". I took a few steps back, extended my right arm while giving the man a stern look, "This is a business function. Your behavior is inappropriate." I said it loud enough for others in the room to turn around. (Another employee from my workplace witnessed the whole incident and he complimented that I handled it very well.) I left the room and reported the incident to the president and the executive director. The man later called and apologized for his behavior. He was never invited to any of the functions.

A few months earlier also in 2004, at a baseball game sponsored by the organization as networking activity for its member, a drunken member accused me of messing up his schedule by assigning him to too many committees. When I tried to explain that it was the president of the organization who made the appointments, the drunken fool said loudly to me, "No, you are the one who F#$% up." There were at least three witnesses and I again walked away. I reported the incident to the executive director. Two days later, the "fool" called and apologized to me, promised that it would not happen again. He has not been to many functions since.

The question I have been asking myself, should I, as an Asian American woman working in the construction industry, have known that these incidents would happen? What do I expect as it is still a man's world, specially the construction industry where 99% of the work being done by men (because women don't have the physical strength to perform the work), the power still rests firmly in the good old boys' hands and everything from executive director position to sitting at the labor negotiation tables is controlled by men who refuse to consider women as business professionals. Women, no matter how well we present ourselves, are still considered less than capable and no more than "the gals in the office".

Should I just shut up and put up with inappropriate behaviors from these drunken fools? Should I insist (I have written once after an earlier incident) that the organization issue a written statement to all members and their guests that unprofessional conducts would not be tolerated? What about the next time that might involve physical touching or even assault? The organization should have zero tolerance policy regarding any kind of harrassment whether verbal or non-verbal thru body gestures. It is 2007, yet last week, I was forced to live in the dark ages, witnessing behavior of men in its ape-form before the evolution.

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