How President Clinton improved my posture.

How President Clinton improved my posture.

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Occasionally I get comments on how ‘erect’ my posture is in group photos. When I stand in a group, I interlock my thumbs behind my back. When my shoulder joints aren’t acting up, I clasp each hand to the opposite wrist. This is a habit going back to the 1990’s, and it’s uncomfortable.  It wasn’t until the #metoo meme campaign did I remember why I stand erect like a cigar store Indian in group shots.  (I’ve got to slip some of this material into my short stories.)

Epiphany! I started to grasp my hands behind my back in response to the Clinton groper-in-chief stories.  Yes, I’m aware of the current allegations about other Presidents, but this is about my posture and my motivations for changing it.

When you are pushed together, you touch each other. It’s unavoidable. I didn’t want to put up with any drama of being accused of groping. After experimenting, I learned that grasping hands behind my back prevented any misunderstandings. After two decades, it’s a habit.

Thank you, President Clinton. My shoulders have never been straighter.

The #metoo coverage also reminded me of a habit I started a few years earlier. I recruited and managed a technical group in Bell Labs (AT&T), that was 60% women engineers. Fresh from ‘manager charm school,’ I would one-on-one mentor each of my group. Like now, women engineers and technicians had had difficulty landing the tough assignments that gained visibility. I was convinced that with some mentoring, each could become more effective in competition with males, who learned this stuff on elementary school playgrounds.

Then the Senate confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice hit the news. Night after night, I saw claims that he abused mentoring to create a harmful work atmosphere. Most of the incidents occurred behind closed doors.

I was a new manager, and scared. From that point, mentoring of women occurred in small groups, and with the door open. Individual attention ceased. No, I don’t claim that I was particularly effective in the one-on-one mentoring, but something was lost.