Monday, December 17, 2012

Good but Over the Top

Kate McGuinness’ Terminal Ambition is a Maggie Mahoney novel. Maggie is a partner in a prestigious law firm. Married to the managing attorney at the firm, she lives a privileged life and has a promising career at the firm. But all that changes after her husband dies in a skiing accident. Returning to work she finds she’s having trouble billing hours, but is assigned to a new committee to investigate and curtail any sexual harassment in the firm. And she does find many instances of sexual harassment – some definitely over the top. Maggie does a lot of snooping around and is always there for other women to talk to about their problems with bosses or other lawyers within the firm. The basic story is terrific. And I like that McGuinness works hard at showing the reader what is not appropriate and what no one has to endure in the workplace. However, to find so much harassment in one firm and to find such extreme circumstances – well, I just think McGuinness went over the top. When I started out as a secretary in the 1960s, I knew of sexual harassment although I never experienced it myself. There were ways of handling these situations and I was always successful in curtailing any problems before they got out of hand. I did know of others who were put into difficult positions and had more of an issue. In those days, there was little support for the victim but things have changed dramatically. Now I’m not saying that these issues still don’t exist in the business world, but certainly not to the extent as this book portrays. A lawyer exposing himself in anger in the middle of a secretarial pool office? Really? Maybe I live a sheltered life but I don’t think so. Other than some of the extremes in the book, I think this was an excellent teaching tool and interesting story.

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