My Name is Elsa

Elsa is constantly looking over her shoulder at work because of the pervasive harassment women are forced to endure. Elsa declined to provide a photo.

Worst Moment: In a meeting with a C-suite member, a manager, and a coworker, the C-suite member told all of us some pretty awful things about a person outside the company (I’ll call him Andrew). The C-suite member was being absolutely callous about very sensitive topics (which Andrew was dealing with), and my coworker made horrified sounds. I expressed my discomfort to the manager using our internal messaging system, and he told me that he just reminded my coworker that she signed an NDA because of how the conversation was going. When my coworker left the meeting, the C-suite member told us that he wanted my coworker to “use her feminine charms” to talk to Andrew, as he was a lifelong womanizer, she’s young and bright, and he’d definitely open up to her. I was very uncomfortable that he was using my coworker for that purpose, and said as much to HR and my manager. They didn’t do anything other than tell me how I can tell the C-suite member why that’s not appropriate. (For reference, I don’t work in HR. If I did, this would be more appropriate.)

I Have Given Up On: I’ve given up on telling the story of how I’ve been treated at my company for fear of being fired, sued, or never working in STEM again. I’ve given up on being paid an industry-standard salary.

I’m Afraid: Every time I go to a work event, my friends and I check in with each other to make sure none of the sleazy men at our company have talked to us. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. Every time a male coworker says something inappropriate to me, I feel like tearing my skin off is the only way to be clean again. I’m afraid that feeling will never go away.
My coworkers say that they love working at our company because there are a lot of strong personalities here and they’re allowed to be themselves at work due to the work culture. I have a strong personality hidden under fear, and that’s not fair.

This Has Cost Me: Approximately $1,200/year for therapy costs, $300/year for psychiatrist costs, and $100/year for daily anxiety medication. This doesn’t include psychiatric hospitalization costs when it gets to a breaking point.

Something You Should Know: I want to go back to school to become a biochemist so I can do research on the chemical nature of anxiety and how to work with that from a medical perspective. It’s funny that working in STEM has given me so much anxiety, and therefore I want to further entrench myself in the field in order to alleviate anxiety for others in the future.

Is There a Bright Side: I feel like my work is worth something. I’m not sure it’s worth the harassment I endure. But I do know it’s important.

My Fight Song: Buried Alive, by Avenged Sevenfold. It seems depressing (the closing lyrics are “this is now your life, die buried Alive”) but screaming “get your fucking hands off me!” in the middle of the song is somehow empowering.

Secret Weapon: I take incredibly detailed notes about everything that happens at work. Names, dates, exact quotes, screenshots of  conversations– everything. This is partially because I work in an at-will state and if I’m fired, I need to have fodder for a wrongful termination lawsuit. But it’s mostly because I like knowing that this is going to come out, and when it does, I’m going to take every last one of these absolute pieces of shit down. I remember reading about a Japanese-American man who started keeping a diary on December 7th, 1941. When I read that, I thought what it must be like to know that history was going to get weird and only you can tell the story that’s happening. That’s how I feel right now.