The events of the past two weeks were not sitting right with me. I was closing my eyes and I could hear the laughter of Tamara when they were making fun of Lawrence at the pub. I’d make my way down the hall in the office and I could hear the gossiping in the cafeteria directed towards the men employees. But I’ve also encompassed a strange amount of guilt when it came to how I treated Lawrence and how as a society, we’ve been treating men.

I’ve made my way to the top, to the corner office, to a secure position in the company where people looked up to me. But have I been honest about it? Have I helped others along the way and celebrated the success with them? Not really. I’ve been climbing the capitalist ladder all alone.

One of my strongest assets was Lawrence and not only did I not promote him, but I’ve also been stealing his success so I could look good. Maybe I was in fact a selfish person, who only looked at her own interest? The realization was not hitting me well.

For the first time in a while I was wearing a pale blue suit with a pink top, while my hair was up in a bun. I’ve always chosen to dress somber and dark, as I thought that people would not take me seriously if I’d come to the office in different coloured clothes. I could see that everyone thought the same as me, all shocked by my bold choice of attire.

“Hey Lawrence. Are you busy? Do you have 2 minutes?” He looked at me surprised, as if I asked him a question he didn’t know the answer to. In all the years he’d be working with me, I never once cared if he was busy. I just assumed that I was entitled to his time.

“No-no, I’m free.” he mumbled and stood up from his desk. We made our way to my office and I closed the door behind me.

“I’ve been thinking about our last discussion.” I gestured quickly to the seats in front of my desk, so he could make himself comfortable.

“Oh..don’t worry about it… was just a question.”

“No, It was not just a question. You’ve been working here for a few years now.”

He looked confused, but nodded slightly.

“You deserve a promotion. You’ve been hard-working, you’ve been my right hand in so many acquisitions and I should’ve been more grateful for your hard work. So, I’ve had a discussion with the board and I’m pleased to say, you’ve just been promoted.” I smiled, a genuine smile this time because if there was someone who should’ve gotten this promotion, it was him.

“You’ve just been promoted to regional Director, overlooking the EMEA region.”

“Oh wow, this is amazing. I don’t know what to say. Thank you! “

“You deserve this, Lawrence. You’d still be reporting to me, but you’d be able to grow your own team now and take on more challenging projects on board.”

“Thank you, Ofelia!

I was truly happy I was able to convince the board on this promotion. It wasn’t easy, but it was something I should’ve done a long time ago.

The rest of the day passed by quickly, as I’ve been taking care of all the urgent files on my desk; this time all alone.

“Lunch?” Tamara popped in and opened the glass door.

I adjusted my blazer and walked with her towards the cafeteria. It was a busy Thursday. Our usual table was occupied by Tamara and the rest of the executive team, while on the other side of the room I could spot Lawrence, sitting with his fellow friends. They were all congratulating him, and seemed genuinely happy for his success.

“I’ve heard you’ve promoted Lawrence” Tamara stared at me while she was sipping on her onion soup, which didn’t look appealing at all.

“Yes, it was about time. I should’ve done it sooner.” I smiled at her, while her facial expression changed into contempt.

“What’s about this guy, Ofelia? Are you sleeping with him?”

The whole table turned around to look at me, putting me on the spot.

“Wait, you’re not sleeping with him, are you Ofelia?” Britany whispered in my ear, as if the rest couldn’t hear the question.

“Everyone calm down. I’m not sleeping with him. Haven’t you considered that he might actually be worthy of the promotion?”

“Oh come on, Ofelia. You’ve always taken his side. You have a soft spot for him.”

I rolled my eyes and continued cutting my meat, not wanting to give them more to talk about. Until I realized that was the exact problem. We were never speaking up to other perpetrators, we just allowed this type of treatment to happen. The same way it did in the pub, the same way it was happening now.

“You know what, Tamara? Lawrence does deserve this promotion. He has been helping me tremendously in the past few years, he’s smart and hard-working and deserves to be taken seriously. I promoted him because there’s no one in this company that does his job and his a great asset. You don’t have to be a bitch about this.” I slightly raised my voice and the whole cafeteria turned to look at me.

“What did you just call me?” Tamara stood up, infuriated at my choice of words.

“You heard me. Now you either stop being a bully, or I’d go to HR. I’m done with your attitude.”

I’ve made my way out of the cafeteria, in a triumphant glow. Maybe this was how superheroes felt.

We’ve had a long way to go, but change happens with small, conscious steps. I was determined to make the office an inclusive, safe space for everyone. People like Tamara shouldn’t find their place here.

Lawrence walked behind me as I was making my way to my office.

“I’ve heard what you said in the cafeteria.”

“I think everyone heard. I just couldn’t let Tamara act like that anymore.”

He stopped and looked back at me.

“Thank you. Really.”