As the news and media cycles continue to air new and ever more disturbing stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, I’ve wondered what the backlash would be like. See, right now, the perpetrators are being quiet. They’re watching as some of the big dogs in their respective industries are being dethroned and discarded. They’re sitting by with the rest of us as their peers burn to a crisp on the social pyre, shaking their heads as their misdeeds greet the air and turn a bright, filthy red.
So, I wasn’t surprised to read a piece WAPO this week discussing the same thing. The article pondered solutions and repercussions in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Essentially, “will the current watershed moment lead to more women in top management roles — or could it actually hold them back?” It queried whether there would be backlash, and that form that backlash might take.
I can clear that up pretty quick. Yeah. There will be backlash. It’s naïve to think that there won’t be. It’s already started.
Some of its understandable. People, even dirt bags who abuse their power in hopes of getting easy sex, are allowed to defend themselves. But the other crap, like the Matt Damon’s of the world who urge us not to forget that there are good guys too? Stop it. Please. My eyes hurt from rolling.
First, when will he learn to shut up? And two, did someone say that every man is bad? Seriously, stop it, Damon and all those like him. In your efforts to soothe the so-called sting of the truth, all you’re doing is distracting people from the point. Or is that the goal?
I’ve read a ton of these articles, disgusting recounts of incidents that have disrupted women’s careers and caused unreasonable, physical, emotional and many other kinds of harm. But I don’t recall being appalled by a rising wave of anti-male sentiment. Probably because there isn’t one. Women aren’t that stupid, and we’re not telling these stories because we hate men. We’re doing this so the hateful men will stop.
But the will this watershed moment keep women from rising to the top or promote their ascent to leadership roles is a good question. Consider this bit from the article: “Some experts worry any backlash to the moment — from overly cautious men to organizations with unfair expectations for the women who do get promoted — could hurt the numbers rather than help them.” That’s totally legit. I’d go so far as to say that’s nothing new; it’s just extremely heightened right now.
The better organizations, the flexible, agile ones that care about diversity and inclusion and are willing to own up to and learn from their mistakes, will be able to move the needle. They’ll see the value in putting women in positions of power, and they’ll see positive benefits from these promotions in their businesses.
But the advancement numbers won’t be great. Not right away. The article pointed out something critically important related to the probability – certainty – of backlash. It called it “collateral damage” of the #MeToo movement, in which senior executive men could cut women out of social events, one-on-one dinners and informal after-work mentoring out of fear that they could say or do the wrong thing. Before the story about the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, Hewlett’s research found that 64 percent of men were already hesitant to meet one-on-one with female co-workers, because they were fearful of the encounter being misconstrued.”
Now that number’s probably like 240 percent. I’m exaggerating, but you get my point, and it’s sad. The solution to this hesitancy over appearances, this desire to minimize risk, is relatively simple: One, meet in public places where there are other people present, a mixed group would be best, and two, don’t be a creep. Have such a solid, longstanding reputation as a standup person – and have it be true – that any allegations of impropriety will be met by men and women alike with a scoff and a firm, “Prove it.”
I understand my solutions are simplistic. But you’ve gotta admit, in most social situations, they work.
So yeah, there is backlash coming. Women in the workplace are going to have a harder time all around, getting anything from development opportunities, to access, to promotions.
The only real question is, which leader or what organization is willing to take the risks needed to reap the rewards that come along with creating a gender-friendly workplace? Who will be unafraid to not only call out bad behavior, but develop and stick to a zero-tolerance policy on the kinds of antics that have clogged our media channels for the past few months?
Now for some news.
This is my last blog for 2017. It’s also the last blog that I’ll write under the theme “diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
I’ve been writing on that topic for many years now, and have been privileged to spark and enjoy a great deal of debate. I’ve learned from my readers, and I hope they’ve learned a little something from me.
But it’s time to move on. I will still blog each week on Friday, but my new blog theme will be “modern media and marketing: critique, coaching and content.” The new theme is better aligned with my work these days, and to be frank, I’ve grown weary of diversity and inclusion. Writing on D&I topics each week can be extremely draining because:
- I feel that a lot of what I say should be obvious.
- I feel that talking about these things only goes so far without conscious intention from one’s intended audience to change and/or adapt.
- I no longer want to spend my energy creating compelling cases to convince anyone to treat me or those who look like me a certain way. I feel my time and energy are better spent creating the types of environments that I choose to dwell within, and showing others how to do the same.
To be clear, diversity and inclusion will still make their way into my blog. I’ll probably write about the workplace too. In my exploration of media and marketing, it’s unrealistic to think that these things won’t play a role. That’s not the world we live in, and I write about real news, real people and real situations.
The media landscape is definitely affected by D&I issues, and I am and always will be a black woman. But in 2018 I’m going to embark on a new challenge, and see if I can’t dialogue with you in a different way.
I thank everyone who has followed me on this journey. I thank all of the organizations who have celebrated my words with awards and what not, and I can assure you of one thing that will not change – my style. I’ll still point a crooked finger at things that seem wrong. I’ll still celebrate what I think is right, and I’ll still have fun while I do it.
Happy New Year.