Yunha Kim, the CEO of the tech startup Locket, recently published a post at Medium chronicling the good and bad parts of being a female boss in such a heavily masculine environment. It’s mostly an upbeat, go-get-’em tale, but she makes sure to note that just because she’s in a position to hire and fire people doesn’t shield her from being sexually harassed. She shares an email she got from a developer she tried to hire, which reads: “I’m pretty happy with current job, but if you’re single I’d like to date you. Perhaps there are some unconventional ways to lure me away from my company (besides stock options) if you know what I mean :)”
“And the sad news is,” she adds, “this is one of the more professional emails.”
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Kim notes that she’s heard from other women who also have found that being the big boss doesn’t mean men treat you with respect. “After the article, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from founders and females in general, and they have even been forwarding me their own emails,” she says, adding that, as ThinkProgress writes, “some founders say this sort of behavior goes on even with investors.”
All of which is why it’s important to focus the discourse around sexual harassment on the issues of boundaries and consent, instead of looking at it strictly through the lens of who officially holds the most power. There can be fully consensual affairs between bosses and underlings—that might be wrong and also frowned upon in the workplace, but it’s not sexual harassment. It’s important to remember that sexual harassment can take place between peers or, as Kim’s story shows, even happen to women at the top.