As apprehensive as Abigail is about working for Bickering Plummet, she’s even more so about telling Genevieve. Cataloging corporate wrongs is a favorite pastime of her cousin’s, none more so than Bickering. During a career day at one of her schools in Seattle, Genevieve was asked to present an essay about Bickering Plummet to honor their president, Clayton Bickering, who was visiting to award them with a grant. Genevieve wrote a scathing exposé denouncing Bickering’s questionable activities in Latin America which she concluded by singing a Brazilian protest song in Portuguese with her fist raised in solidarity. Most of the company’s representatives were fuming and ready to withdraw the grant they were awarding the school as well as having Genevieve questioned by the FBI.
The only person who wasn’t phased by it was Mr. Bickering, who smiled cheerfully throughout the presentation then gave her a standing ovation and congratulated Genevieve on her “fine speech”. He was so genuinely pleased with her effort, he asked for a copy, then offered to increase the grant amount on the spot. A few weeks later, Genevieve received a package containing lots of Bickering company merchandise, including coffee cups and a T-shirt, from Mr. Bickering himself, with a nice, handwritten note again praising her speech. His response was so positive, she actually felt bad for deliberately looking glum in the photo she took with him while shaking his hand before the presentation.
Needless to say, Genevieve is very disappointed to learn Abigail has “gone over to the dark side” and snubs Abigail for twenty-four hours, until Leah insists she invite Abigail to dinner. For her part, Leah is not at all supportive of Genevieve’s attitude toward Bickering.
“Rosie may have encouraged you to take stands on issues but I don’t want you stirring up trouble with Bickering Plummet,” Leah tells Genevieve when Abigail joins them for dinner. “I partner with them rather frequently.”
“You do? They’re a global defense contractor. Why would they need to outsource security?”
“The government is required to follow every fair hiring regulation it imposes on employers,” she explains. “A corporation like Bickering often needs to work with a small, minority, or woman-owned business to go after certain government contracts. With my company, they’re two for three — three for three if I tell them I’m Jewish. I win the contract and hire a few of their workers, or I’ll subcontract when they need expertise in a given field.”
“I never pictured you as a corporate drudge.”
“That is not what this is. When I’m the primary, I have the final say on all work. You don’t understand how things work in the real world.”
“Corporate America is like a massive social network. Who you know is almost as important as what you know. It can take years of knocking on doors and shaking hands to establish a reputation. Once you’ve got it, you guard it with your life because when you lose someone’s trust, you rarely win it back.”
“I can see how that would be problematic,” Genevieve says.
“How did you get in with Bickering?” Abigail asks.
Leah chuckles. “I hacked their system.”
Genevieve leans forward. “No you didn’t.”
Leah puts up her right hand. “I certainly did. In fact, I hacked every corporation in Atlanta and prepared a dossier on each to show them what I found.”
“Weren’t they angry?” Abigail says.
“Angry, but most were damned impressed as well. Some of the CEOs complained to my father about what I’d done. After chewing me out, Dad told me he advised them to hire me.”
“I’d like to poke around in Bickering’s files. No telling how many skeletons are lurking there.”
Leah gives Genevieve a frustrated sigh.
“All you see is this monolithic corporation. Do you have any idea how many people would be out of work if Bickering closed its doors? Tens of thousands in the Atlanta market alone. Hundreds of thousands nationwide, and an astronomical number if you include their overseas ventures. In some countries, they’re the major source of revenue for a given community.”
“I never thought of it that way.”
“Apparently not.” Leah turns to Abigail. “What are things like in your division, Abby?”
“The head of my division is a black woman. That’s kind of unusual in corporate America.”
“Would that be Lisa Summers?” Leah asks.
“Yes, that’s her. Do you know Lisa?”
“We’ve met. She was project manager on some contracts I did with Bickering when I was fixing their security flaws a few years after they merged with Cairo. I heard she’d been promoted to management. About time.”
“I’ve also noted quite a few women and minorities in key corporate positions,” Abigail continues. “Very impressive, actually.”
“Good for them,” Genevieve says. “But if I see something that’s wrong, I say something. That’s what Mom taught me.”
“And that’s fine,” Leah says, “but you’ve got to be diplomatic about it. At least learn the nuances before stirring up stuff.”
“Nuances. Got it.”