I consider my mom one of my best friends. I used to have an irrational fear of losing her because of how close we are. At five years old, my parents divorced, leaving my mother as a single mom to raise my older brother and me. I think that really shaped me as a child and more importantly as a woman. Seeing how hard she worked, raising us without any child support from my father, it set a profound precedent in my life. She worked multiple jobs to get us the tutoring, piano, clarinet, art, Taekwondo, swimming, and any lesson you can think of. My brother is eight years older, but by the time I was ten he was out of the house and off to college so more often than not, it has always been just mom and me.
My mom and I have very similar personality. Ever since I was a baby, she’d indoctrinate me like any other stereotypical Asian mom, to become either a doctor or a lawyer. When I enrolled at UCSD, she realized that neither math nor science was my forte, so she was set on me going to law school. She had convinced me as well, so I ended up taking LSAT courses after my second year of college. That’s when I couldn’t stop daydreaming about my true passion: my own clothing line and swimwear. When I told her about this dream, she scoffed at me and told me that it was a fantasy – that there would be no way to make a career out of selling “underwear”.
All my mom ever wanted for my brother and I was financial security so that we would never have to suffer like she did working multiple jobs such as a bank teller, caregiver, and paralegal. The perspective of an immigrant is different from first generation. My mom did most of the hard work, changing her lifestyle completely, moving to a foreign country, and learning a new language. To my mom, the only pathway to success is getting more licenses by going to graduate school.
Being the stubborn person that I am, I argued with her, that I wanted to pursue my dream. I told her if this clothing brand did not work out then I could go back for more schooling. She finally succumbed and we made a promise that I would only get one year to see how it would go. She felt a little more at ease because I graduated college within three years, and I told her to think of this as my “fourth year”.
I’m not going to lie, the path to starting a brand is not easy. It’s challenging and there were many tears along the road. I cried whenever things got tough. I didn’t know how to create clothes or what the process was to start it. I cried from loneliness when I went to Bali, Indonesia to find manufacturers alone.
I cried when retailers went bankrupt and couldn’t pay me back for my merchandise. All these times that I was sad and expressed these challenges to my mom, she took these moments to persuade me “Sophia, just go back to school. Become a nurse or go to law school.. Stop suffering. It hurts me to see you suffer.”
But that’s life. You will go through challenges no matter which path you take – whether it is law school, nursing school, or trying to start your own business. Even after having two successful years of Siempre Golden, where the revenue multiplied each year, my mom convinced me to go to community college and take a class that would be required for nursing school. I agreed to take the class to appease her—anything to get her off my back. She used to call me a “baby CEO” because she thought I wasn’t making enough money. It was very difficult the first two years of the business – I felt conflicted. I wanted to be an obedient daughter and make my mom proud. I wanted to provide for her how she did for my brother and me but the way she wanted me to did not align with my dreams.
However, things gradually changed. By 2017, my mom stopped mentioning graduate school and stopped calling me a “baby CEO”. She realized that after my second year, I was doing great revenue wise, and that my products were selling. Being my mother, she was hard on me, she simply assumed that a brand should blow up within the first year, but these things take time. Although, she wasn’t fully on board with this idea, now she’s happy to see me doing what I love. From this experience, I taught her that it’s possible to pursue something you love. Lastly, Siempre Golden allows me to work remotely; I’m not restricted to one area, so this gives me more time to be with my mom – who lives in Northern California. Now we are on the same page, and she hopes that I grow this business bigger each year. Almost three years later, she fully supports Siempre Golden and doesn’t question my passion.
Siempre Golden is more than just a brand. It’s a state of mind that you choose to live by, to constantly pursue golden moments or “goals” in order to live your best – golden life. When women wear my collection, I want them to feel empowered to be able to do whatever they dream of. If there is a will, there is a way. If I could persevere and persuade my stubborn, traditional Korean mother, anyone is capable of pursuing his or her dream as well.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.