In a recent article, I tried to turn away from the “bad news” one inevitably sees in the “#MeToo” movement. (Too many women have been treated as objects and had their careers derailed or slowed because of unwanted sexual advances.) I asked readers, as a Christmas present, to send me some good news about women in the workplace. I got some, both from readers and from others I talked to about this subject. As a result, I am back to seeing the glass as at least half full. Let’s start the new year with these positive, half-full thoughts.
Positive thought No. 1: While too many women have been treated unprofessionally at work, most have not. One woman referred to my own career as an example. She feels she is another example. She is succeeding in a leadership position in an industry that is “predominately male.” She reports that her company “has made a concerted effort to identify female candidates” and has hired a number of “high achieving, capable, confident women who bring not only diversity but a renewed energy to our organization.” She shared,
“I’ve personally been with this company for 10 years. Not only have I never suffered any bias or discrimination, I believe my perspective and knowledge is valued and rewarded ... In fact, during my career ... I have never felt ... treated in any way inappropriately. While stories like mine are not publicized, I truly believe that there are far more women who have experiences like mine then those that are currently hitting the news – it simply isn’t news when someone is treated just like everyone else.”
Positive thought No. 2: Most men do not harass women. We have seen powerful men exposed, fired and humiliated for serious acts of harassment. As more charges have come forth, one could begin to think that all men see women as objects and treat them inappropriately. Of course, that’s not true. I have talked to lots of men who are as appalled as I am at the stories in the news. I know and have worked with many men who treat women with respect – as equals. They have never done nor thought of doing what we’ve seen in the news (although they may still be learning about unconscious bias).
Positive thought No. 3: This may be a tipping point. One reader suggested the “possibility that sexual harassment against women will become greatly diminished as a result of all the charges coming forth.” I reflected this hope in an earlier newsletter, saying, ”Maybe this time, this much media, this many stories will lead to real change” and asked readers, “Are you hopeful this mess can bring about real change?” So much more has happened – more charges, more firings, toppling powerful men – since I wrote that. I am more hopeful now that this may be true.
Positive thought No. 4: Companies are doing something. Some are dusting off, and hopefully refreshing, sexual harassment training. Maybe all this noise will make people take it seriously rather than as a “check-the-box” obligation. Companies are re-looking at their policies on sexual harassment. One colleague of mine, who has done amazing things in the tech field, is now focused on start-ups led by women and on investor organizations that fund women entrepreneurs. She tells me that several or the investor organizations “are adopting a Zero Tolerance Policy for their investors and entrepreneurs.”
Positive thought No. 5: Organizations committed to supporting women in business are gaining traction. Paradigm for Parity® is a coalition of companies that commit to achieving gender parity throughout their leadership ranks by 2030.This organization just celebrated its one-year anniversary with 60 companies committed to its 5-Point Action Plan, “a roadmap for companies to meet their inclusivity goals and achieve gender parity in leadership positions.”
Please keep the good news coming. Let’s keep filling that half-full glass!