HANDLING HARASSMENT

I share my story when I believe it can make a difference. Most often, the opportunity comes up with young women exploring careers in sports media and seeking advice. I am honest and candid about my journey. I want them to know the truth.

My hope is their paths are easier–with less resistance and discrimination. In 2020, they should experience equality and the encouragement to be who they are and pursue their passions.

If sharing my struggles can help, they were all worth it.

 

When I set my heart on a career in sports radio in high school and started pursuing my dream in college, no one warned me about the challenges of being a female in a “man’s world.” I knew there were very few women in the business, but it didn’t bother me. A tomboy when I was young, I had always been comfortable around guys, and I could certainly hold my own whether we were talking sports or playing them. As I began working in radio, I did what came naturally to me. I tried to be “one of the guys.” I laughed at jokes I didn’t think were funny, and I used coarse language I’m not proud of. I chimed in because I desperately wanted to blend in. It didn’t work. Women in sports radio stuck out like a sore thumb 15 years ago. Despite my best attempts, I was always the odd one out. But that was only part of the challenge.

At some point early in my career, I made a conscious decision to keep the harassment to myself. I shared it with Mom and my closest girlfriends, but I decided I’d rather “tough it out” than risk getting blackballed or ostracized any further. I told myself as long as I wasn’t in danger–Mom hammered home all the precautions to take–I could survive any type of verbal harassment. I wanted the career more than I wanted to expose how I was treated in the workplace. Even if bosses or managers took me seriously, I would be labeled a “problem” or “bitch” or “troublemaker” and hurt my chances of getting and keeping jobs. In some cases, my superiors were the ones doing the harassing, so complaining would’ve been pointless.

For the first decade of my journey, it was a line I heard over and over: “The newsroom is like a locker room.” At one previous job, it was a used as a punchline or held up as a badge of honor. Sadly, I’ve covered teams in actual locker rooms far more professional than some of the places I’ve worked. The pseudo-locker room atmosphere equaled getting hit on non-stop. When I was younger, I told myself it was flattering or complimentary. But it got old, especially when it was a lot of married men looking for a cheap thrills. I would get propositioned by guys I barely knew. One broadcaster much higher up the totem pole emailed my company account from HIS company account to ask if I wanted to have sex for fun. Instead of being taken seriously as a journalist and being appreciated for my brains and work ethic, my value was often tied to my appearance. One over-zealous colleague followed me in his SUV as I walked across a dark, empty parking lot after my shift at 3am to suggest we “hang out.” My heart was racing in that moment.

The locker room atmosphere meant constant jokes about sex and stories about sex. While they didn’t necessarily offend me, hearing them from a bunch of men when I was the only woman often made me uncomfortable. And I frequently turned into a target. In the early 2000s, the owner of my radio station attempted to embarrass me in a room full of people by loudly ridiculing my sexual abstinence. I can still remember the acute humiliation, but what could I do? He was the one who signed my paychecks. In some of my newsrooms, I had to work in front of pictures of mostly naked women or log into computers with similar screensavers. Derogatory and disgusting nicknames, vulgar language that made me cringe, inappropriate and insulting comments, emails or texts with nasty photos–I navigated all of it for years. But outside of venting to people I trusted, I did very little to protest.

I’m not sharing these stories from my past to garner sympathy. I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me. It was my own choice to keep quiet, my own decision not to fight back. I wanted the career more than I wanted it to stop. I’m not recommending the same course of action for other women in my position. I don’t have foolproof methods to handle every situation. But I want people facing similar challenges to know they aren’t alone. Looking back, there are many things I would do differently. I also know my experiences made me stronger, smarter, tougher, wiser, more determined, and more professional than the ones who harassed me. Plus I bypassed most of them on the broadcasting food chain a long time ago.

In 2016, the climate is vastly different. Companies educate employees about workplace harassment because they fear whistle-blowers or lawsuits. Employee rights are now a top priority. Beyond that, I don’t hesitate to stand up for myself. I remind men I’m in the room if their language or stories make me uncomfortable, and I tolerate very little harassment on social media. I don’t care who likes me or dislikes me because of it. I no longer need to fit in. I’m proud of the fact that I never will. Being different, being unique, being unconventional is a huge part of my success. It shapes who I am. It took some time and heartache, but I finally recognized that standing out instead of blending in can be my greatest asset.

 

 

8 Responses to “HANDLING HARASSMENT”

  1. Dolores Jones Says:

    Love your wisdom and your sport’s knowledge Amy…listen to you everyday starting at 2a.m.
    An 83 yrs old sport fan

  2. Thanks Amy for sharing this. I am sorry you had to go through all of that. That would have been really tough. I can only imagine.

    I hope you are well and staying safe and healthy. ☀ Sincerely, Brian

    [image: photo] G. Brian Benson at Award-Winning & #1 Best-Selling Author, Actor, Coach, TEDx Speaker, Radio Personality, Creative and 4x Ironman Triathlete Address PO Box 4335 North Hollywood, CA. 91617 Phone 503-999-6243 Email gbrianbenson@gmail.com Website http://www.gbrianbenson.com Skype gbrianbenson

    On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 4:57 AM Play by Play Day by Day with Amy Lawrence wrote:

    > amylawrencepxp posted: “I share my story when I believe it can make a > difference. Most often, the opportunity comes up with young women exploring > careers in sports media and seeking advice. I am honest and candid about my > journey. I want them to know the truth. My hope is th” >

  3. Steve Gould Says:

    I’m glad for you that you stuck to your guns and fought for what you wanted. Believe me me it still happens today as a man it happens to me at my job it’s the second occasion when I’m the lowest paid employee new people start off making more money than I make the company says they’ll look into it. I work my tail off always ahead of production goals, I do this with health issues. Even today with the pandemic on they’ve called just about everyone back but me, I’ve confronted Human Resources on the issues and they tell me more people are still off even though I mentioned I know it’s not the truth from because of what other employees tell me. Sometimes it’s not your colleagues you work with it’s management that is the abusers. I’m like you I muster on because I try my darnedest to get along with everyone because that’s the way I was raised in the 1960’s. I know there’s a lot more people out there experiencing the same thing I’ve gone through but it does get better but with the company they’re with. THANK YOU Amy for sharing your story

  4. R Lawrence Cook Says:

    Amy Lawrence, I only get to listen to you now & then, but your charisma and enthusiasm stay with me. Thanks for being you and speaking out.

  5. MARY LOU HUFFSTETLER Says:

    Thank you, Amy. Your courage and determination are admired. At least there have been some changes over the years in many professions. Some of us experienced what you did in jobs one might never expect to see it.

  6. themarkcoys Says:

    Love it. Standing for what you know to be God’s Will in you life, standing up for yourself and being a great example to others….you are an excellent radio host but obviously an ever better person.

  7. I believe you did the right thing by biting the bullet and riding the situation out. Because the tide going against you was too strong.
    You would have lost your career and for good reason, a women
    playing in a man’s world. You had to go along to get along.
    There’s a time to get up and a time to shut up. When your career
    began was the time to shut up. and finally now is a time to get up
    with caution, you’ve earned that right. You have survived as a women working in a man’s world, congratulations
    Your audience including me love you and will put up with no sports
    talk because we see the light at the end of the tunnel. I listen Monday thur Thursday every week.

  8. Larry Bradley Says:

    You go girl

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