Everybody had always told me it was really important to find mentors, and so in my first jobs after university, I tried really hard to set up those kinds of relationships. I remember there was one man who was really great. We’re not in touch any more but we were pretty close for a long time, and he helped me a lot. I remember always feeling very safe with him.

But mostly it did not go well. It just wasn’t comfortable.

I’m Filipina by background and most of the older people I worked with were white men. There was something about the dynamic between a young Filipina and an older white man that was just not great. I often got the feeling of being sexualized or objectified. Sometimes I got that vibe from the man himself, but sometimes it was from other people – like, a server in a restaurant would act like we were on a date. Or with one man, his assistant was always hostile to me, like she disapproved of us spending time together.

Nobody ever crossed any kind of line. There is no way what I experienced could even be called sexual harassment. But I definitely felt like the majority of those men were enjoying my company for personal reasons more than professional ones. It felt almost like a quid pro quo, like they were willing to give me some advice, in exchange for me hanging out with them in a bar and laughing at their jokes.

At the time I felt like it was a pretty okay deal. I did get some good advice. But with the advantage of hindsight, I’m not so sure. When I look back now, I can see how those men actively intervened in the careers of my young male colleagues. They would recommend them for assignments or work directly with them on projects. That never happened for me. 

I feel like those older men had slotted me into the wrong part of their brains. They just didn’t think of me as a colleague. They had me slotted in as “pretty girl” or maybe “potential affair partner”. They liked spending time with me, but they didn’t do anything to actually help me do better at work.

I do feel like that shaped my career, all our careers. If I look at the young men I worked with, today they are mostly in executive roles or have founded their own companies. The women really didn’t do so well, despite being just as talented and hard-working. I feel like, looking back, the men looked out for the men and made sure the next generation of men was going to be okay. They didn’t do that for the women. It’s really a bummer.