of the firm, because the experience was just a little
bit different. The forums that were held sometimes
I found to be irrelevant to my experience. They did
form a women’s group toward the end of my time
there that I think had potential.
FRANKEL: So what happened next?
COPELAND: I went back to the drawing board
trying to fit in the space that I was confined to, and
it required a lot of compromise. One compromise
was sexual harassment. It was a social norm in the
workplace that I was in. When I began my job, there
was one other woman that I worked with directly in
my space, and she was a young woman, she was white,
she came from a wealthy family, she was athletic, all
of that. A good fit, and someone who was really on
the fast track—it was apparent. I began to model
These uncomfortable conversations and gestures and
overtures would spill over into after-work functions.
FRANKEL: Give me some more specific examples.
COPELAND: Sure. We would be out at a Christmas
party or at an after-work function, and after people
would be drinking, at the end of the night, I was
propositioned on several occasions by married men,
people who were more senior than I was.
FRANKEL: Were they your direct supervisors?
COPELAND: No direct supervisors, but people who
were senior in my group [asked me] to go with them
to hotels and whatnot. I would say no, and you could
feel their coldness the next day—that would often be
played off as a hangover—but it was just a chill.
“IF YOU OPEN THE DOOR FOR IT AND ALLOW IT AT
ANY LEVEL, IT WILL CONTINUE ... THESE uncomfortable
conversations AND gestures and overtures
would spill over INTO AFTER-WORK FUNCTIONS.”
my interactions after hers. One of the things that
she used to allow was for individuals to touch her in
inappropriate ways in the workplace.
FRANKEL: Can you be a little bit more specific?
COPELAND: There was an older man that used to
come up behind her daily and squeeze her on the
waist. She would always laugh and joke as he did it,
and play it off as if it was something that was funny
or it tickled or amused her. It was only a matter of
time before this individual had developed a similar
level of comfort with me, and this same man was
coming up behind me and squeezing me in the same
place, every day, whenever we saw him.
I hated it. I did. But I allowed it, because worse
than these 10 seconds of daily harassment was this
thought of being ostracized and of no longer being an
insider in this culture, in my group, being labeled as a
troublemaker. So it was this compromise that I would
allow to continue to fit.
The sexual harassment continued. If you open the
door for it and allow it at any level, it will continue.
One day, there was a black man who made an
inappropriate comment. I was on my way to work
with my gym bag, and he told me later, “You know, I
saw you on the train this morning with your gym bag,
and I was secretly hoping that it was an overnight bag
and that you were coming from my house.”
FRANKEL: That’s quite an inappropriate comment.
COPELAND: It was very inappropriate, and I was
furious, and I went back to where I was working, and I
happened to mention it to the person that was working next to me, saying, “I can’t believe he just said this
to me.” And that individual felt so convicted that he
told my boss, and by the end of the day, my direct
managers were circling me, saying, “Oh my gosh, I
can’t believe this has happened to you. He is going
to be reprimanded. We are going to take care of this.
We’re so sorry.”
And I thought, “Did you not see this old man
that squeezes my waist every single day?” But maybe
because he’s white, there’s not the same sort of fervor
about reprimanding him or fixing the situation.