Why powerful women speak up and how to prevent gender inequality in the workplace.
This article was originally featured on medium.com
According to TIME editor Edward Felsenthal, the #MeToo movement is “The fastest moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women — and some men, too — who came forward to tell their own stories.”
When I was in college, one of my three jobs was working was a part-time gig at local retail store. I was working as an art and marketing director, which was the bane of my existence during this time. The store was a male dominated workplace where only two other females other than myself had worked there. During one of our evening shifts, my female co-worker came to me stating that a customer pushed himself onto her and kissed her without her consent. She didn’t know how to handle it, and honestly either did I. However, I knew I was livid. She said she wouldn’t be able to communicate what had happened to her bosses without breaking down into tears. I offered a suggestion of writing a letter about the situation. She did, and I wrote one too.
The following day I took the letters to the store owner. I explained the situation and filed a formal complaint. Afterwards, no one mentions the formal complaint or the letters or anything. We are both taken into a room and explained how the store could not do anything in regards to the situation since the incident was not reported right away. Bullshit — I thought I failed her and myself in this time. With passing everyone played it off and went on with their day-to-day. Looking back I did fail. I was in a position of power and I didn’t fight as hard as I knew I could — Hindsight is always 20/20. Knowing what I know now and the resurgence in the #Metoo movement would have opened my eyes to becoming the who I am now.
Why powerful women speak up — We often talk about the actions of an offense, but not it’s dynamic. Sexual abuse and assault is about power dynamics.
Men in more powerful positions find their action okay because women may not be reactionary in a situation of abuse of assault.
It’s important for women in leadership positions do not tread on any offense lightly. From the boardrooms to newsrooms, men across the country are being held accountable for their abusive behavior toward women. The movement is just getting started. More high-profile predators will fall, and perhaps our country can have a long-overdue reckoning with how power dynamics — especially related to gender — hurt us all.
Even with being assaulted in the past, I don’t have all the answers. But I am fortunate to have a diverse range of male and female leaders and peers who encourage me to think about these topics, as well as offered their thoughts, advice, feedback, and most importantly — support.
I believe companies would be wise to do the following:
Have More Women in Leadership Roles, Period: Biases fester and materialize when monolithic groups rule. Ensuring more women secure leadership roles in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Capitol Hill is an important step to reducing harassment and ensuring a diverse set of viewpoints are heard.
Don’t Tolerate Toxic Masculinity: Donald Trump describing in crude detail how he routinely touched women sexually without their consent. At the time, powerful allies like Paul Ryan and Mike Pence forcefully denounced Trump, but later backed down. This was a mistake — we must draw hard lines when it comes to sexual assault. When it comes to assault, no one should get a free pass.
Don’t be a Bystander: ‘Go along to get along’ is one of the worst lessons we can teach kids — especially our young girls. Bad behavior must be called out. Employees must feel empowered to disagree with their peers, encouraged to question authority, and feel confident in reporting mistreatment.
Conduct Blind Screenings: It’s not surprising that most people don’t self-identify as racist, sexist, or homophobic — yet research proves these biases still exist. To correct for implicit bias, companies should conduct “blind screenings,” meaning job-seekers’ names are removed from resumes, and recruiters see numbers instead. Initial questions and assignments are conducted at home, which ensures candidates are judged on the task requested and completed.
Stop being Defensive : If an issue arises, take it seriously. No, you don’t have to be worried about hugging women. If you don’t take your anatomy out uninvited, or assault, rape, or pressure colleagues to have sex, you’ll be fine.
Standing with the brave women — and men — who have spoken out about sexual harassment and violence should be an easy choice. Yet, there remains a deafening silence from some of our political leaders.