#MeToo… So Now What?
Does anyone else feel as though their heads are spinning from the number of sexual assault accusations in the news recently? Every single day we hear of someone being accused of inappropriate conduct, sexual assault, molestation, etc. Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor. Nick Carter, which to be honest, broke my Backstreet Boys’ loving heart. Roy Moore. Some law enforcement, even. And the list goes on and on. Every time I turn around, the news consists of two things: 1) Trump or 2) this person has been accused by this person of sexually assaulting them or behaving in an inappropriate manner with this person. It’s ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should turn a blind eye to the accusations or that it’s ridiculous how many women are coming forward to bravely share their stories of assault. What I’m saying is that the number of women, and men, coming forward, taking a stand and speaking out, is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that there are that many people coming forward to say ‘enough is enough.’ It’s gotten to the point where SNL has created a video depicting the life of a woman in a world where sexual assault seems to be running rampant. It’s become an epidemic of sorts, one much like the wildfires in California. It keeps growing and spreading, like wildfire. One right after the other.
One question I find myself asking as of late, is what else are these organizations and individuals doing besides firing or suspending the problem… or not firing or suspending the problem in some cases. Donald Trump *cough.* When you look at an organization like NBC with the “Today” show, Matt Lauer’s creepy behavior went on for years, and yet no one seemed to notice. Donald Trump, for years with his lewd, disgusting behavior and remarks towards women in public, and yet he was elected President. It only takes one match to start a fire, and that match was the Harvey Weinstein accusations. Once those women started speaking up and speaking out, it was as if the flood gates had opened. Every woman suddenly felt comfortable in sharing her story with the world. Some men, even.
Netflix fired “The Ranch” actor Danny Masterson after sexual assault allegations and fired Kevin Spacey after Anthony Rapp came forward with accusations from 1986. Harvey Weinstein is no longer Hollywood’s shining star. Matt Lauer, after numerous complaints and many women came forward, was let go after almost twenty years with the “Today” show. And yet there are still politicians who sit in office on their golden throws amid sexual assault allegations, and no one is batting an eye. It’s a “he said, she said” type of situation.
According to a recent poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, two-thirds of Americans, roughly 67%, believe that sexual harassment happens in most, if not all, workplaces. 56% of employed women under 35 say that they have been on the receiving end of unwelcome sexual advances at work. In a recent poll for the Washington Post and ABC News, 64% of Americans now say that sexual harassment in the workplace is a “serious problem.” Who knew!
And that’s the problem. We’re aware and we know that there is a problem, but again, I have to ask, what else are these organizations doing besides firing or suspending the problem? Or not firing or suspending the problem? Where do we draw the line? How do we fix it? Can it be fixed?
Ann Curry, former co-host of the “Today” show, said it best when she spoke to People magazine a few weeks ago regarding the sudden firing of her former co-host, Matt Lauer: “The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there. Corporate America is quite clearly failing to do so, and unless it does something to change that, we need to keep doing more ourselves.”
But, what can we do? According to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, it’s time to change the power structure. Sandberg is urging women not to lose the momentum they’ve gained, calling for ‘systematic, lasting changes.’ The goal is to protect everyone, regardless of whether or not they are climbing the corporate ladder or working in a lower paying position. “We need to end the abuse of power imbalances due to gender, and race, and ethnicity, too. We must not lose this opportunity.” On her Facebook page, Sandberg outlines six policies and principles for ending sexual harassment in the workplace and changing the power structure:
- Develop workplace training that sets the standard for respectful behavior at work, so people understand right from the start what’s expected of them
- Treat all claims, and people who voice them, with seriousness, urgency, and above all else – respect
- Create an investigation process that protects employees from stigma or retaliation
- Follow a process that is fairly and consistently applied in every case, for both the victims and the accused
- Take swift, decisive action when wrongdoing has occurred
- Make it clear that all employees have a role to play in keeping workplaces safe, and enablers and failed gatekeepers are considered complicit when they stay silent or look the other way
Sounds simple enough, right? If you look closely, you’ll see that these policies and procedures look about the same as something you might find in one of your employee handbooks — if you actually take the time to look at it. I know. I’m guilty of just skimming through pages and looking at things like benefits, sick time, and workplace attire.
What is different about Sandberg’s policies is that they are more cut and dry than previous HR policies. The language is clearer. And maybe that’s what organizations need to start doing. Revising their current policies and procedures and making them clearer. Making it so that people are more comfortable in coming forward and speaking out rather than worry about losing their jobs or being attacked for speaking out.
Do you think companies should make their HR policies clearer in terms of sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace in general? Is it possible? What should organizations or companies be doing besides firing or suspending employees? Tell us in the comments!