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Eva Longoria, Reese Witherspoon, and Other Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Action Plan

Administrator harassment, Leadership, women Tags: , , , , ,

Women, Can “The Time’s Up” Movement Change Men’s Hard-Wired Attitudes Toward Sexual Harassment Or Is It Just Another Flash In the Pan?

Are white collar working women included?

Here’s the hard truth: For thousands of years, men have asserted dominance and dictated the rules of society, with women expected to take subordinate roles — nowhere more strikingly than in the workplace. Men think they run the world and believe that they dictate the rules.

Sexual harassment based on the power imbalance between male bosses and female subordinates permeates every industry. As I discussed in my earlier Weinstein blog, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll be faced with sexual harassment from a colleague, superior, or customer, no matter what career path you follow.

Now a new movement has emerged, spurred by celebrity women banding together to bring down certain producers, actors, Congressmen, potential senatorial candidates, TV personalities, and news directors through allegations of sexual harassment. And it’s working. These women are taken seriously, and famous men have lost their jobs. An effort is being made to expand this phenomenon to non-celebrity victims of sexual harassment. Time’s 2017 Person of the Year, The Silence Breakers, included “regular” working women in its cover feature. The New York Times has published articles on sexual harassment of the women working at Ford plants. And the #metoo movement has triggered a massive outpouring of responses from regular working women of all ages from all occupations, races, and income levels.

Companies have scrambled to double-down on zero tolerance policies and anti-sexual harassment training programs amid growing scrutiny. (Most companies have had these policies and programs in place for years — but now women are wondering, “Do these companies really mean it?”) At the federal level, the House and Senate have passed new rules requiring members of Congress and their staff to complete mandatory sexual-harassment training. And even the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has announced an initiative to ensure that there are proper procedures in place to protect federal court employees and law clerks from sexual harassment.

The latest development is that 300 powerful Hollywood women — directors, producers, actresses, agents and writers — have developed an initiative called Time’s Up “to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces.” Blue collar workplace women are defined as the “less privileged” and include janitors, workers on farms, factories, hospitals, restaurants, housekeepers from hotels and nurses. All of these women desperately need protection from sexual harassment, and there is no question that I support this action.

Sadly, white collar women also suffer from systemic harassment. One out of every two white collar working women report sexual harassment, and that number does not include those women who are too fearful to truthfully answer an anonymous survey. And these statistics are for women in industries where they are theoretically in a better position to protect themselves against harassment and retaliation.

Women, we all need to join together to fight ubiquitous sexual harassment. Stars, factory workers, waitresses, lawyers, secretaries, professors, secretaries, women in finance and STEM, janitors — we’re in this together.

My concern, and I hate to say it out loud, is that fighting against pervasive harassment is “trendy” right now. And two things will happen. First, there will be a backlash from men. That’s already happening with men refusing to hire or promote women, or be seen in public with a woman if they are married. This sexual harassment initiative only serves to enhance the old boys club by excluding women not only from all extracurricular business activities, but also from normal office business activities.

Second, the women celebrities, however well meaning, will lose interest, especially when they realize how pervasive the problem is. A legal defense fund of $13 million dollars is, unfortunately, a drop in the bucket. And do they really believe that a single working woman supporting children will risk her job by complaining about sexual harassment? Women without real power and influence (as in almost all women) need more help to stop persistent and widespread harassment and to change men’s attitudes about it.

I salute these 300 Hollywood women, but it will require much more. Men will not simply decide to relinquish their dominance and stop dictating the rules of our society.

This is a promising start. The key is to keep this movement alive and vibrant. All women need to band together to fuel the fire of change and keep that fire burning.

In order to see true social change, women need to unleash their power. Run for office or support women who do. Work on legislation to protect victims of sexual harassment. Participate in women’s marches and write to your state and federal representative. One email can be ignored, thousands cannot. Vote for candidates who take strong anti-sexual harassment positions. Boycott products of companies run by sexual predators.

There is strength in numbers. Women’s purchasing power ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. We control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the United States. Approximately 40% of US working women out-earn their husbands. And we account for 85% of all consumer purchases.

Make yourself heard. Flex those muscles you didn’t know you had.

In business, women must rise up to managerial positions in all fields. With that newly acquired power, we can then effect change to empower other women. If you have achieved some measure of success, root for, mentor, and sponsor other women. Today, women have the chance to work together and advocate for each other in ways that I never had when I was making my way up the ladder. If we can do that — if we can build our own “old girls’ network” — we can improve the lives of younger women coming up.

Our goal: to have a core of successful women in all fields to effect true social change. We have untapped power.

Now is our time to use it.

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