Being treated differently in the workplace, regardless of their position in a company, is a sad reality faced by many women.
There have been too many disturbing accounts of people in toxic work environments, many of whom were verbally and physically harassed and were too afraid to speak up or file a report at the risk of losing their jobs.
Although some companies have taken steps to eradicate discriminatory issues–like the gender wage disparity and many of the double standards benefitting men in corporate America–there is still room for much improvement to ensure equal opportunities and safe working environments for everyone.
One example of a person who suffered workplace discrimination is TikToker Kathryn Hofman, who shared a harrowing experience as an ambitious 22-year-old.
Hofman lost out on a job opportunity because her hiring manager viewed her as someone he wanted to sleep with instead of hiring.
The clip in which she shared her disturbing story and encouraged viewers to be an ally for all victims of sex-based discrimination and harassment has received over 2.5 million views.
Things were promising for Hofman, at first.
"Once upon a time in corporate America, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 22-year-old," she said, "and I got my first big girl job straight out of undergrad working for a company that sold sh*t tickets — literal toilet paper."
"I was super excited, great company name, good things."
"Well, when I got hired, I got hired to take over a territory in Washington, DC and then the company did a reorg and that territory went away, so I made the decision to participate in the inside sales organization they were building out until a territory that I wanted in the field came up and I was up for promotion."
"So, that happened, ultimately. And during my first ever sales kickoff with this organization, I was up for promotion and the Texas team in Dallas was looking to potentially hire me in that role."
"So, I spent the week participating in a sales kickoff with that team from Texas to see how I fit in the organization and the team, etc."
"By the end of sales kickoff, it was really evident that I fit in really, really well with the team. But the hiring manager and I had a conversation during the very last night during the end of kickoff."
"You know, cocktails and band there — all that kind of jazz. And he informed me, verbatim, that he could not hire me because he wanted to f'k me. Literally said the words to my face, 'I can't hire you because I want to f'k you.'"
"Now, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 22-year-old, my natural instinct — and the first thing I did — was to burst into tears and run into the bathroom, sobbing. Because what else do you do in that situation?"
"Well, what that manager chose to do in that situation was chase me into the bathroom and I physically had to make him leave."
"Then I brought that to their HR team, and I'm not going to tell you how that turned out because that's not the moral of the story. It didn't turn out well for me...we'll just say that."
"But that manager did not get disciplined. He ended up leaving the company for a competitor and all of the hiring managers from that point on were forced to sign a non-compete."
"That was the resolution to that man leaving and going elsewhere, not actually punishing him. Now, I say all of that to say that I'm guessing if you stuck around this long, you're a woman. Unfortunately."
"Now, if you're a man, I would love to hear that you heard this whole story in the comments. Please, please let me know."
"But if you're a woman, if you're a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 22-year-old, I want you to know that is never your fault. Your clothing, your energy, your demeanor, your positivity has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of respect you are owed in a professional setting."
"When — and I say when because unfortunately it is when — when that happens to you, what I want you to do is go find the curmudgeon old lady," she said.
"I'm 30 now. I am the curmudgeon. Go find me in your team, because we're going to have your back because that's important and we've been there."
When Buzzfeed asked Hofman if she would have done things differently back then, she said:
"I wouldn't have reported to my employer immediately. Instead, I would have gone home and written every single thing I could remember about the incident down."
She also said she would have hired a good attorney and not worry about the ramifications of seeking legal counsel.
"Doing this was terrifying to me at the time," Hofman said, adding, "I truly believed suing my employer would be a stain on my permanent record for the rest of my life."
"Not only is that a victim-blaming mentality, but it's also fundamentally not true. These are things you learn with the benefit of time and experience, which is why my top piece of advice for any person in a situation like mine is to find an ally."
"Someone older who can help guide you personally and remind you you're not at fault."
She recalled her immediate responses to the distressing situation and wondered:
"Everything from 'was it my dress' to 'did I smile too much in the team meetings' went through my mind."
"The gift of a patriarchal society is victim blaming and internalized misogyny that we all must unlearn. I'd love to say there's one single answer to the question 'how did this impact you after,' but the unfortunate reality of being a woman in corporate America is my experience is not unique and it's most definitely not the only example of sex-based discrimination in my (relatively) short career."
"This story just happened to be my first experience. The work I've done for myself to unlearn my own internalized misogyny has been critical for me to stand up for myself in instances where 22-year-old Kathryn would have felt at fault."
"Being a 'safe' leader is not enough. You know the leader who is abusing their employees, you know the folx who think 'locker room talk' is just a joke."
"Use your voice and your power to be an active ally for the women and minorities on your team. Uplift their voices and their careers. Or get out of our way."
Hofman is aware her story is not unique and that many people experience similar "abuse in corporate America."
"Be it sex-based discrimination/harassment or race, gender, or any minority identity—what I hope is that more people become the ally they needed. Slowly, we can change the world together."