'They realized what happened, I would say, maybe 30 seconds to a minute into the conversation. Certainly enough time for me to be able to see it go back and forth.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 14, 2023. It has since been updated.
The internet is rallying around the vice president of a recruiting and staffing company after she spoke up about an incident at work. A group of men was caught discussing with each other about her looks while she was on a business video call. Whitney Sharpe, 28, is headquartered in Boston and was not pleased when the chat was mistakenly displayed on the screen. “When a vendor accidentally shares his group Teams chat, it’s all nasty things about me. It’s 2023, can this stop.” she captioned the Tiktok video that has received over 2 million views. Honestly, it is the 21st century. How about some professionalism and work ethic for once?
Speaking with TODAY, Sharpe said that the incident occurred on January 24 during a business video meeting with potential clients. She explained that her role as vice president is to look into various vendors who can strengthen her developmental business teams. Sharpe was joined in the video meeting by three other men who were employees of the potential clients and she refrained from disclosing the name of the company the men work for. It should be noted that everyone on the call was made aware of the recording before the meeting began but in the home state of Massachusetts, it is forbidden to record any conversation without authorization.
“I was on a call about to do a demo, and that software vendor accidentally shared their group chat with me instead of sharing the demo that they were supposed to share,” she explains, adding, “The group chat said some pretty unkind things about me and it just kind of went on from there.” Apart from one of the messages calling Sharpe an "effing bombshell", she declined to get into the other details of the chats. “They realized (what happened), I would say, maybe 30 seconds to a minute into the conversation,” she explains. “Certainly enough time for me to be able to see it go back and forth.” Sharpe's hands were shaking during talking about how she wanted a female representative, but she handled it quite well.
“My mind was going, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, just get the words out,’” she explains. “I just was focusing on breathing in, getting the words out clearly and calmly. I think as a woman in the workplace, we’re often labeled emotional. I really didn’t want them to be able to say that I was emotional in my response. I definitely could have gone a lot harder on them. But if I did that, they would have been able to say that I was ‘too emotional’ and I was going to play into that, and I didn’t want that to be an excuse.”She waited for 15 minutes to let all of that sink in and then she spoke up. “Okay, well, first of all, if we’re going to continue working together, I want to work with a woman sales representative because I don’t want to have to see locker room talk about myself when you’re sharing screens,” she says in the video addressing the inappropriate messages.
In response to this, one of the men can be heard saying that the exchanges were “inexcusable” before adding, “So apologies on that.” In another video, Sharpe shows us a picture of an apology letter sent by the VP of the company. The CEO of the potential client reached out after 24 hours and formally apologized to Sharpe. “I felt that was a big issue and the CEO was on the line with an attorney and his head of HR,” she explains, what was said, “didn’t feel genuine whatsoever.” Till today, Sharpe is yet to receive a sincere apology from the three men in the call. “I’m really hoping to partner with some of these organizations like RAINN,” she notes highlighting that women aren't the only victims of sexual harassment. “I really am hoping to speak with someone from RAINN and then the EEOC, which protects employees in the United States, so I can continue educating myself and then use my platform to make sure I’m saying the right things I don’t want to ever be giving the wrong advice.”