When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July, President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world.
What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object?
Many women and men are still wary of working together when their work requires them to have one-on-one meetings or to travel together for business. New research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reveals that almost two-thirds of the 5,282 registered voters surveyed by the New York Times say, “People should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.” Miller notes that these results also partially explain “why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. . . . They [women] are treated differently.”
First, the good news: dozens of women have been speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace in recent months, bringing their upsetting experiences into the light and out of the shadows after a long period of silence about this issue in organizations. Understandably, women have been coming forward slowly either because of pressure to stay silent or justifiable fear of negative consequences to their careers. Gretchen Carlson spoke out at Fox News and brought about the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and other women gained courage from her example to tell their stories of sexual harassment at Fox.
My sister and I took care of our mother during the last months of her life. She developed fast-growing brain tumors and, mercifully, was incapacitated and bedridden for only a few months before she passed away. We quickly became exhausted and unable to physically care for her without professional help as she declined. It was a shock to discover how expensive it is to hire home health support and how little the long-term care insurance, for which she had been paying over decades, would reimburse. None of us had the financial means to pay for much support for very long. She passed quickly, but a family can rapidly become financially drained trying to care for family members. Realistically, women pay the biggest price for both elder care and childcare—as unpaid family caregivers.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses?
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data.
“I do not feel that my years of experience are valued or respected by my boss or coworkers,” wrote an employee on an employee satisfaction survey that I recently administered for a client. Most of the employees of this organization are very young, with only a few older workers below the executive level. This comment surprised both me and my client, but I recognized it as a symptom of the generational shift change taking place in the United States.
Equal Air Time for Women: Eliminate the Male-Pattern Rudeness of Manterrupting, Mansplaining, and Manologues
Many women were immediately angry when we saw Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren interrupted, chastised, and cut off mid-sentence during US Senate hearings in recent weeks while their male colleagues were allowed to speak. As Renée Graham noted in the Boston Globe, “To be female is to be interrupted. By the time most girls reach their first day of school, they already know how it feels to be drowned out by a chattering group of boys.” It was so obvious to most women watching the Senate hearings that manterrupting was happening—why weren’t the men involved aware of their own rude behavior?
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, keeps a close eye on the United States economy. One of the concerns of the Federal Reserve since the Great Recession (officially 2007–2009) has been the sluggish rate of overall economic growth in the United States, which impacts the well-being of all of us. In a recent speech, reported by Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times, Chair Yellen said that policies making it easier for women to work could significantly improve the nation’s economic growth. She suggests three policy areas that would make it easier for women to participate in the labor market:
My niece just had a baby and is worried about being paid less than her male peers. She is an engineer with solid work experience on her resume, and she intends to return to work full time. She wants answers from me about how to avoid becoming a victim of the gender wage gap.
Unfortunately, new research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reinforces that, as a new mother in her late twenties with a college degree and a professional career, she is poised to become a wage gap statistic. I don’t know what to tell her about how to avoid this. Because most companies keep salary data secret, she will probably only be able to suspect unfair treatment but will not be able to prove it. The odds, and statistics, are stacked against her.
I just came across an interesting new study, reported in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), showing that companies run by male executives with female children rated higher on measures of corporate social responsibility (CSR), defined as “measures of diversity, employee relations, and environmental stewardship,” than is true for comparable companies led by men with no daughters. This means that male CEOs with daughters spend significantly more net income on CSR priorities than is true for other companies (unless the CEO is a woman, but more on this later).