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