Two years ago, my niece, an engineer in her twenties with solid work experience, started a new job about which she was very excited. She was one of very few women in this engineering company, which was not unusual. When she returned from maternity leave about six months ago, after having her first child, she was treated so badly by her male manager that she eventually resigned. After her return from maternity leave, her manager took away her meaningful projects and gave her boring work that no one in the company cared about. He denied her requests for flex time, for permission to occasionally work remotely, and for permission to leave early on days when she had medical appointments. He made disparaging remarks about her needing breaks to pump and made comments that implied she was useless to him because she would probably have more babies. She complained to HR who said nothing could be done. She could not thrive there. With every day that passed, she felt worse about the company and began to doubt herself. She left.
The tidal wave of public accusations and firings of high-profile men for sexual harassment and assault, known as the #MeToo movement, has swept across several sectors and industries in recent weeks, including technology, entertainment, finance, and government. But not everyone who experiences sexual harassment and assault as an employee feels included in the #MeToo movement. Hotel and blue-collar workers are often invisible victims of sexual harassment for whom participating in the #MeToo movement either is too dangerous or does not help them.
There is good news on the horizon about gender stereotypes in the media. I wrote in my book New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together about the power media images have to reinforce negative stereotypes of women as sex objects. These images communicate that the only thing that matters about women and girls is their appearance. There are still too many images of women as sex objects in advertising, but Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports on an exciting new study from Getty Images, a major supplier of stock photos that appear in ads, on billboards, and in blogs. Stock photos are important, Miller explains, because they “reflect the culture at a moment in time.”
For some time now, technology companies have acknowledged that women are underrepresented in their companies in technology and leadership positions. Both large and small companies in Silicon Valley have publicly announced their intentions to increase the representation of women and minorities in their ranks, yet not much progress has been made.
Progress has been very slow for women’s advancement in law firms. Why is this the case? As Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports, women are
- Slightly over 50 percent of current law school graduates (and have been for a long time)
- Under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms
- Only 20 percent of equity partners, where the highest compensation and best opportunities for leadership exist
Olson cites a recent study by Anne Urda of Law360 that found that “only nine of 300 firms surveyed had a lawyer work force that was 50 percent or more female.”
Therese Huston of the New York Times writes that “history has long labeled women as unreliable and hysterical because of their hormones.” Interestingly, new research shows that men’s hormones fluctuate, too, both naturally and artificially, with possibly dire consequences for the rest of us. Prescriptions for testosterone supplements, often for a condition called “low-T,” are heavily advertised on television and social media and have increased from 1.3 million to 2.3 million in just four years. As Huston notes, the availability and popularity of these supplements makes new research on testosterone possible. She reports the following findings:
“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.
Could a bold and creative act by the Boston-based State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) finally bring gender equity to corporate boards in the United States? When senior female executives at SSGA decided to commission the statue “The Fearless Girl,” their goal was to bring visibility to the lack of women on boards. By placing the statue in front of New York City’s iconic Bull of Wall Street in during the middle of the night prior to International Women’s Day on March 9, 2017, they hoped to spotlight this issue.
Women have enrolled in law school in equal numbers with men in the United States for the last twenty years, and minority enrollment has also steadily increased during this period. Recent studies, compiled into a series of articles by New York Times reporter Elizabeth Olson show both good news and bad news about the current status of women and minorities in law firms.
Olson reports good news based on a study by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). This study shows that women and minorities made small gains in 2016:
- Women made up 22.13 percent of partners, up from 21.46 percent in 2015.
Decades of research show that women make a difference in elected office. Women do govern differently, yet we are losing representation in the United States. Claire Cain Miller, writing for the New York Times, reports these results of the November 2016 election:
- The number of female governors dropped from six to five.
- The number of women in Congress stayed the same at 104, or 19 percent of the seats in the House and Senate. One seat was gained in the Senate and one lost in the House.
- Thirteen states will send no women to the new 115th Congress.