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Say What? Ex-Letterman Writer Says Hostile Work Environment No Joke



"Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no."



Nell Scovell, a female writer on the David Letterman show in the '80s, on why she left her "dream job" in less than four months as a writer on the show because of the sexual atmosphere there. Sexual favoritism, a subset of sexual harassment, creates a hostile work environment for women who are not having sex with higher ranking men by creating an uncomfortable sexual atmosphere in which it appears that advancement is predicated on having a sexual relationship with higher-ups. In 27 years, there have only been seven female writers on Late Night and Late Show. Scovell's dream? "I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too." As of today, there are no women out of the 50 comedy writers writing for Late Show With David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.

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sloane220 sloane220 6 years
@tres- i totally agree with your point of view.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 6 years
I hear you, chloe. I usually don't comment this much on posts, but this one seemed particularly important. Thanks for your comments!
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
I'm not disagreeing with you. I just have a different point of view because I'm acutely aware of how many fabricated allegations of this nature there are and how damaging it is to those falsely accused. If there really is pervasive discrimination, then the women should bring a lawsuit. If it really is 100% consensual, then I honestly don't know what the solution is. I guess there would have to be some sort of legislation barring consensual romantic relationships in the workplace, and that is an awful high standard to hold employers to.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 6 years
I see no reason why I wouldn't believe what Scovell is saying, that women there were sleeping with their bosses. Other women have since come forward and said they had affairs with Letterman, so there is corroboration for her claims. Plus, she doesn't stand to benefit from saying this in any way at all. Did she say that every woman who rose in the ranks was sleeping with Letterman? No. Does that make the women who slept with Letterman or their bosses "sluts"? No. It makes them people who contributed to, and/or perhaps benefited from, a sexualized work environment that, technically, is illegal.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
Tres, I'm saying maybe we should give the other women the benefit of the doubt and not automatically assume every rumor we hear about them is true. Yes, he admitted to an affair with one woman. But we don't know for sure that the same is true with EVERY woman who EVER worked there. Don't you see, it's just as bad for women to point fingers at other women and to call them sluts as it is for men to treat women disparately? If the environment is indeed so bad that women cannot be writers on the shows, then there is already legislation to remedy the situation.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 6 years
Chloe, If a woman's sleeping with the boss, that's irrelevant to her success? And the entire environment supports that? I don't think anyone's disputing that the Letterman work environment was highly sexualized or that there was sexual favoritism going on. The most recent revelation proves that the woman who had an affair with Letterman inexplicably (to those who didn't know what was going on) got air time, loans, etc. And I think the fact that there are few to no women writing for these shows says a lot about how welcome women are there.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
Tres, my suggestion that the described events do not meet the threshold of an actionable hostile work environment does NOT signify approval on my part. IF everything she says is true, then I truly feel sorry for what she had to go through. But conversely, as a feminist, I don't think that any time a woman is successful at work, it should be assumed that she could have only gained success by having an inappropriate relationship with male co-workers. So I wonder how much of this is true and how much is her own speculation as to what is going on.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 6 years
Maybe she was afraid to take on one of the most powerful people in her chosen industry? Or admired him too much and wanted to just make it go away? Had seen too many women raked over the coals for complaining? I think our energy as women is put to better use going after those who abuse their power rather than the people their actions harm. She went through a lot, I imagine, leaving her "dream job" and being disappointed in a man I'm sure she looked up to.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 6 years
Tres, I dont have a problem with someone complaining, but this woman didnt.....till now.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 6 years
These comments are blowing my mind. I have worked in environments with bosses who sexualize their female workers, either through demeaning comments, or by viewing them as potential sex partners. Unless you can take the daily stress, you don't stay long. Having to find another job creates all kinds of pain and suffering (monetary and otherwise). And then if you blow the whistle — which I have — there's a whole other can of worms to deal with. Easier solution? Make laws so that this sort of unprofessional behavior doesn't occur, because these actions actually harm women who are just trying to go to work and have equal opportunities.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
Um, I don't think that's a hostile work environment.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 6 years
I don't get the negative comments to this post. I read the article in VF and she's pretty fair added for context "I decided to speak up now for three reasons: 1. People who have no knowledge of the situation are voicing opinions, so why not me? 2. Letterman himself opened this up to a public discussion. 3. I’d like to pivot the discussion away from the bedroom and toward the writers’ room, because it pains me that almost 20 years later, the situation for female writers in late-night-TV hasn’t improved. Now, I don’t want a lawsuit. I don’t want compensation. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want Dave to go down (oh, grow up, people). I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too."
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 6 years
I don't get the negative comments to this post. I read the article in VF and she's pretty fairadded for context"I decided to speak up now for three reasons: 1. People who have no knowledge of the situation are voicing opinions, so why not me? 2. Letterman himself opened this up to a public discussion. 3. I’d like to pivot the discussion away from the bedroom and toward the writers’ room, because it pains me that almost 20 years later, the situation for female writers in late-night-TV hasn’t improved.Now, I don’t want a lawsuit. I don’t want compensation. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want Dave to go down (oh, grow up, people). I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too."
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 6 years
yea i love how people step up to the plate when the plate has been out there for 20 years.....
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
oh, boo friggin hoo.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
oh, boo friggin hoo.
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