I still remember the 1:1. We were in one of the corner rooms of the third floor, where the white walls were bright in the late spring sunshine and the minimal and mismatched office furniture was as awkward as our conversation. There was a white noise machine on the floor, droning quietly. My manager had anonymized feedback to give me, feedback that he had thought to solicit while I was out of the office on vacation.
Amongst other complaints, he told me that a coworker of mine, whose identity he protected, was critical of my attempts to highlight diversity issues — that they thought I was only talking about diversity as a political move to gain more power in the workplace, that I didn’t actually care about hiring more women in engineering, that I was insincere.
I remember staring at the sunlight streaming in the windows, listening to the sound of traffic filtering up from the streets below. I didn’t know what to say. I was indignant and hurt and angry and had to choke back a deep swell of emotion. “But they’re wrong,” I finally said. “That’s not true.” My manager seemed uncomfortable too, but he continued, “It’s just important that you know that what you’re doing makes people believe these things about you.”