31 March 2013

Ashley Welde: Speaking Up

The Ms. Foundation for Women is celebrating Women’s History Month with a blog carnival featuring the voices and profiles of women across the country. This Month of Action is generously supported by our friends in Seattle. 

By Ashley Welde

In 2001, I left my corporate job for a fantastic dot-com opportunity, doubling my salary and achieving a director title. I was co-leading a project with another male director, and our client was a music company with all male stakeholders.

Initially, gender didn’t seem to be an issue. My work was valued, and I developed a business model with significant new revenue streams that the client hadn’t previously considered. It was the highlight of our six-month project.

A week after the project ended, celebration was in the air. A male colleague asked if I was ready for the party.

“What party?” I asked.

“At the steak and cigar bar with the client. You didn’t know?”

No, I didn’t know.

Whether on purpose or by oversight, as the only senior woman on the project, I’d been excluded from the festivities. I was stunned and angry. I called my boss, who hadn’t worked on the project, for support. He thought I shouldn’t do anything, as it would make waves with the client. What good would come from complaining?

I grew more furious. Be silent? I couldn’t do that.

I called our department head whom I suspected had planned the event, and he made a feeble attempt to cobble together an excuse. Ultimately, I skipped the party. I’m a vegetarian, cigars aren’t my thing, and the venue was seemingly chosen with boys in mind. But, by confronting our department head, I had hopefully prevented this from happening to another woman in the future.

I hadn’t realized blatant sexism like that could happen in 2001. I don’t think all men are bad; many men have championed me throughout my career. But the experience made me more proactive about advocating for myself and co-workers who might be marginalized. Every woman – and man – can be a trailblazer by speaking up for what’s right.

Ashley Welde lives in Rye Brook, NY.

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