Women and men around the globe jumped on the #MeToo movement at the end of 2017. People who had experienced harassment, prejudice and bias raised their voices to say “enough.”
Perhaps the entertainment industry has been the most visible in their dealings with those who have abused their power; taking action against those who would treat women, and men, unfairly and inappropriately.
So what has been the business impact of the #MeToo movement?
Recently, Gillian Tan and Katia Porzecanski shared their perspective in the Bloomberg article Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost. Just the article title alone was enough to stop me in my tracks to reread the words “avoid women at all cost.”
As women in business, we strive for equal pay, equal opportunity and a degree of equal respect that our male counterparts enjoy. How will businesses ever achieve a diverse, gender-equal leadership team if they are avoiding half of the population?
Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion. (Bloomberg)
I have to ask the question…are we in grade school? And are we going to have separate rooms for women and men too?
MeToo Movement Reality Check
The only people that should be spooked are people that are doing things that they would not share with their spouse or children. If you act as you would in front of the people you love, your actions will not be grouped in with the Matt Laurers and Harveys of the world.
Not every look and spoken word is a case of harassment. If you examine those who have lost their jobs, are facing legal action and are the reason for the #MeToo Movement, you’ll see people who have truly abused their power.
Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison, puts things in perspective when he says:
“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.” (Bloomberg)
Businesses Need Men AND Women to Succeed
We can’t allow the pendulum to swing so far in the other direction that women are excluded out of some sense of fear. Businesses need men and women working together, sharing opinions, leading the cause in order to be successful; individually and as a company.
I have worked with so many awesome men and I think it is unfair to group men into a single category. While the #MeToo Movement has received a lot of press since it came to life, the truth is, the number of people abusing their power is a small percentage of the overall population. In fact, many men have been critical to my success. There have been several men who have taken the time to showcase my projects, outcomes, and ideas.
Executive Leaders Need to Step Up
This fear needs to be nipped in the bud and it starts at the top of the company. If business leaders see this avoidance behavior, they need to address it and put things into perspective. If we are going to realize change in the next significant decade; a world in which men and women work together, equally, to build a better world, it is going to require honest communication and strong leadership.
“There aren’t enough women in senior positions to bring along the next generation all by themselves,” said Lisa Kaufman, chief executive officer of LaSalle Securities. “Advancement typically requires that someone at a senior level knows your work, gives you opportunities and is willing to champion you within the firm. It’s hard for a relationship like that to develop if the senior person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.”
Men have to step up, she said, and “not let fear be a barrier.” (Bloomberg)
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JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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