The Women’s Voices Project

Texas Women's Voices

Illustration by Max-o-matic

In a series of as-told-to conversations, two dozen Texas women talk about gender, work, and what needs to change for women in their home state.

I’ve spent five months talking to Texas women about their experiences in the workplace. Even with #MeToo top of mind for me, as it is for so many, I was stunned by how universal the harassment was: When a cardiologist physically harassed an ICU nurse, she shrugged it off and continued taking care of dying patients through her twelve-hour shift; an oil rig foreman assaulted a woman selling pumping units, and as a result she never met in a customer’s offices alone again; another woman was traumatized when a father figure at work kissed her against her will at age fifteen, and she kept the incident a secret for fifty years.

As a nation, we’ve begun talking publicly about these experiences, and as the #MeToo movement has grown, we’ve started to realize that our approach toward gender in the workplace needs to change. But it’s impossible to expunge every supervisor who sends an employee graphic photos, every colleague who leers at his coworkers, every boss who gropes workers in a dark storeroom. So how do we reform the way we approach sexism in the workplace? In the wake of #MeToo, what comes next?

My colleagues and I posed those questions to Texas women from a range of industries and backgrounds. We talked to women in positions of power—who run corporations, lead universities, and helm newspapers—as well as those in less visible roles: our state’s nurses, technicians, and oil workers.

These Texans spoke eloquently about what must follow the #MeToo conversations. Some of the women we talked to suggested legal and institutional corrections. Others spoke about how women can support those without a voice. But nearly all of them, in some way, echoed what author Sandra Cisneros told me: “The most important thing about the whole #MeToo movement is to have people listen—we don’t do very much listening in this age. This is the time that we need to listen to those who have not had the microphone.” We’re listening. Here’s what we’ve heard. —Charley Locke

The Voices

Kam Franklin
Kam Franklin: Create Space for Female Acts

May 9, 2018 By Katy Vine

"Sometimes a festival rep will say they don’t want acts that are too similar. Could you imagine telling a man, 'Sorry, we can only have one indie rock band, you're all wearing Levi's and that's pretty overdone so we can't have that'?"

Dilma Da Silva: In Male-Dominated Fields, Create the Work Culture You Wish You Had Come Up In

"When you have companies where women are CEOs, where they really have a hold at the top, it does make a difference. It has changed the culture. Now, you don’t assume that your boss will be playing golf, like the senior vice president that you had 25 or 30 years ago. The traditional vice president that we have now is a woman that has teenage children, and has a very different life."

women computer science
Terri Burke workplace discrimination
Terri Burke: Provide Legal Resources to Women, Especially in Small Businesses

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"It’s so important to have a place where people can feel free to bring their issues to someone to investigate, and in a smaller setting, victims really worry about losing their jobs. They worry that nobody will believe them, so they’ll lose their jobs for complaining. They worry that if it does become public, they’ll have to relive the whole experience. They worry about stigma."

nurse
Anonymous: Recognize the Emotional Cost of Coming Forward

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"I think a lot of nurses—ICU, emergency room, operating room nurses in particular—have to emotionally shut down to do their jobs. It’s like we learn to develop an aperture in our lens, of what you can let in and what you can’t. If you let yourself feel everything that happens there, you’re not gonna make it. And I think sometimes we let things pass that we shouldn’t."

Sylvia Garcia
Sylvia Garcia: Remember Due Process

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"The issue isn’t going away, because for once, women feel like they can speak up and that they are finally being heard. And I think as a body, the Texas Legislature needs to demonstrate that we’ve heard these women, and that we’re going to clean our own house."

women oil industry
Nicki Turnbow: Be Tough and Do Your Job Well

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"As a woman, you can’t put yourself in a bad position. One day, a foreman asked me to ride down with him to where they were drilling a deep gas well, about 45 miles away. I didn’t any more want to go than a man in the moon, and I should have said it, but I was thirty years old, and I didn’t know how to say that. I felt like I would be hurting my work opportunities."

Mary Beth Rogers
Mary Beth Rogers: Put Women in Positions of Power

May 9, 2018 By Katy Vine

"I think there is a true opportunity right now for women—even more significant than when I was in state government.  We’ve got so many running for public office now. Once they win and their numbers grow, we’re bound to move beyond 'me too' to something better."

Christi Craddick
Christi Craddick: Be a Mentor to Other Women

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"Women who are interested in politics need mentors so they can realize their potential if they choose to run for office. There’s a value to relatability, or being able to not only see women already in leadership roles but have access to them."

Gina Chavez
Gina Chavez: Recognize Your Privilege

May 9, 2018 By Charley Locke

"When you have credibility and a mic from which to speak, that comes with a responsibility. Having a woman onstage allows a girl in the audience to say, oh, I can do that. A platform is an opportunity, and so is an audience."