Why you need to fight for equality
By Lea Steuri
Sexism and workplace harassment affects most women. After gaining a position of power as a manager herself, Lucinda Jackson decided to speak up and openly talk about her experiences to help other women. She is the author of the memoir Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious. As a PhD scientist and global corporate executive, Lucinda spent almost fifty years in academia and Fortune 500 companies and has published articles, book chapters, and patents. She is an international presenter, speaker and Peace Corps volunteer. Lucinda is currently working on her second book, an exploration of freedom after leaving a structured life.
You have written and published multiple books about workplace inequality and how women can find their power. What motivated you to write about this topic and have you experienced unequal treatment of women first-hand?
When I was 9 years old, a stranger in a store approached me sexually. I saw right away that men could be predators of girls and it made me cautious. In high school, I experienced sexual harassment by a teacher and sexism in general as a female interested in pursuing science. Further, my father told me girls didn’t need to go to college and that my goal should be to learn to cook so I could catch a husband. During almost 50 years in academia and corporations, I personally experienced rampant harassment and sexism. As I became a manager, I became stronger and helped other women overcome sexism and find their power. I wrote the memoir Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious initially to explain to myself why all this happened. Then I realised my story could help others.
You have worked as a scientist as well as in the corporate world. Are there any differences in the behaviour and the treatment of women between industries?
I have seen similar unequal treatment of women in all the industries where I personally have worked—businesses such as restaurants, hotels, scientific research, agriculture, oil & gas, environmental, and so on. I have spoken with hundreds of women in all aspects of businesses, and their stories are much the same as mine, especially in male-dominated fields.
What would you suggest someone to do who experienced unequal treatment themselves or done to others and what can women do to find their power?
We women must speak up. I let all women know that they can expect retaliation if they speak up. But I also tell them they must do it anyway. It’s the only way for our society to change. I also coach them that they will feel so much better about themselves if they say something—not go through life knowing they played a role in perpetuating the status quo. So I ask them to be brave. Fortunately, files of complaint are not in your corporate records so officially no one knows about it. That being said, word gets out. If asked if they ever “complained” about unequal treatment, I tell women they can make it into a positive: “Yes, I spoke up because I believe everyone needs to be treated fairly, men and women. It makes me a good leader.”
Oftentimes women struggle to break free from old power dynamics. Why do you think that is and what can we do to take a step out and to break free?
Yes, we women struggle to break free for many reasons. For me, it was because I lacked self-confidence and experienced shame and self-blame. I advise women to tell themselves every time they feel insecure: “I am beautiful, I am strong, I am peaceful, I am calm.” Then they must not blame themselves or feel shameful for sexism and harassment directed at them. It is not their fault. It is the fault of our society and we can all start changing this and taking action.
In your new book, you write about sexism and sexual harassment. In your opinion, are we doing enough to talk about this issue or should we take further steps?
My call to action is for women to never stop talking about this issue until we have equal pay, parity in female representation and leadership, and equal rights. We don’t have any of this yet, so our struggle is not over. I recommend further steps:
–For men: 1. Step up and speak up—do not be a passive bystander, practice bystander intervention 2. Role model the “new” masculinity 3. Parent equally in raising strong and sensitive children
–For women: 1. Join male-dominated fields, stay in them, and speak up 2. Network with and support other women always 3. Practice behaviours such as getting the floor, not apologising, and calling out sexism 4. Parent equally in raising strong and sensitive children
Connect with Lucinda or find her book at: https://lucindajackson.com .