Women in the United States struggled many years to win the right to vote, and we still have not been able to win the presidency. At least fifty-two other countries in the world have had a female head of state—some countries multiple times—but we have not. Hillary Clinton’s recent run was not successful, but she took us one more step along a very long journey for women in the United States. Gail Collins of the New York Times reminds us that when women implored the men writing the US Constitution to include women’s rights, the men laughed and ignored the request. It took almost another 150 years for women to win the right to vote in 1920. Once the struggle to win the vote got underway in earnest, it took fifty-two years of nonstop campaigning to win, and the campaigns were often met with violence, arrests, and mockery. We won the vote, but we still have not gotten the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed, which would put American women into the Constitution. I marched in the streets for the ERA and cried when it failed to pass. I am still waiting. Collins notes that even after winning the vote in 1920, women did not vote as a bloc; they voted more like their husbands, “on the basis of ethnicity, economic class, and geographic location,” a pattern that was also reflected by white women voters in this election. Collins points out that, unlike in the Civil Rights Movement, “where black Americans had grown up as a separate group, victims of endless injustice and brutality,” and fought together against the white majority (and are still fighting), white women were not a separate enslaved group. Collins explains that while white women had precious few rights themselves, “they were living in the bedrooms and parlors of the male authority figures. . . . When they rebelled, they were laughed at.” As we just saw in the 2016 election, women are still not a voting bloc. In fact, Susan Chiara explains that 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. Joan C. Williams, writing in the Harvard Business Review, notes that although a majority of married women, college-educated women, minority women, and unmarried women voted for Hillary, “WWC [white working-class] women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin—62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won. Class trumps gender,” and it probably always has. Chiara cites Nancy Isenberg, author of the book White Trash, as saying, “class shapes gender identity.” Chiara notes that racial fears and perceived competition with African Americans and immigrants for good jobs and opportunities are a higher concern for WWC women than is sexism. This may illuminate why the release of the Access Hollywood tapes with sexist remarks by Trump about women did not turn many WWC women voters away from Trump. The fact that Hillary Clinton ran for president as the first-ever female nominee of a major political party is a step along the road for US women. Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm were the first women to try for the nomination of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, but they did not win their party’s nomination. Now Hillary Clinton has broken that barrier. She did not win, but Sarah Lyall describes the profound moment for many women on Election Day when, carrying with them mementos of long-dead grandmothers and mothers, they finally got to vote for a woman for president! Women proudly marched to the polls in groups wearing white to symbolize the suffragists, in pantsuits or wearing “Nasty Woman” t-shirts. Groups of women put flowers on the grave of Susan B. Anthony, who fought for suffrage but died before women’s right to vote became law. Mothers drove daughters past the childhood home of Hillary Rodham Clinton in Illinois to point it out to them. Hillary Clinton did not win, but she took us the next step along the path. Thank you, Hillary. Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire © 2016 by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 ]]>
Gretchen Carlson went public about the sexual harassment she endured from Roger Ailes as an employee of Fox News and got Roger Ailes fired. Carlson did not agree to stay silent when offered a settlement as part of a nondisclosure agreement, and she got fired. It took courage to go public, and, subsequently, many women have come forward to tell their previously undisclosed stories of sexual harassment. In her article in the New York Times, Carlson notes that, according to the National Women’s Law Center, “almost half of all women have been sexually harassed at work. And those are the ones who have been brave enough to reveal it.” In a previous article, I explain why sexual harassment is still so prevalent in the workplace. Carlson has committed herself to taking action to create workplaces free of sexual harassment for our daughters––places where offensive comments about women will not be dismissed as “locker room talk” and sexual assault will not be tolerated. She explains that while women need to feel able to come forward and say, “This is not OK,” creating harassment-free work environments will require more than women speaking up after the fact. She offers the following suggestions:
- Companies should not be allowed to force newly hired employees to sign contracts that require secret arbitration of all discrimination disputes, including sexual harassment claims. Carlson explains that secrecy silences women and leaves harassers free from accountability. In addition, arbitration rarely favors the accuser and cannot be appealed. Carlson plans to testify before Congress to help fight forced arbitration, and we all need to weigh in with our representatives to support legislation to stop forced arbitration contracts.
- We should reassess whether human resources (HR) departments are the right places for victims to lodge their complaints. As demonstrated by Carson’s case at Fox News, HR and corporate legal departments are often loyal to the company executives who hire them and see their job as protecting the company by covering up the misdeeds of executives to prevent lawsuits. In fact, when I was consulting to companies in the 1990s and early 2000s about how to set up policies and procedures that would create harassment-free environments for employees, a best practice was to have an outside ombudsman, often an employment law firm, on retainer to represent the interests of the employees. After this time, arbitration clauses were added to employment contracts and this route to safety for employees was closed off.
- We should reassess sexual harassment training given by companies. I agree with Carlson that such training is often a corporate façade that creates the illusion of compliance with antiharassment laws. While Carlson suggests that harassment training should be assessed for effectiveness, I maintain that training without effective reporting procedures that bring perpetrators to justice can never be effective. In other words, don’t blame the training. Employees always know when “no tolerance” statements are insincere or not backed up by procedures with teeth to protect them.
- We should be conscious and intentional about raising both boys and girls to show respect to each other at school and at home.
- Men should hire more women into positions of power and stop enabling harassers. Carlson states that men and women need to work together: “This is not only a women’s issue. It’s a societal issue.”
Image courtesy of pixabay.com.[/caption] I have been designing and facilitating women’s leadership-development programs for more than twenty-five years, and I always include a segment on misogyny. I begin by asking for participants to raise their hands if they have heard the term misogyny before—usually no one has, until this year. This fall, when I asked the question, almost every woman in the audience raised her hand and knew the definition: having or showing a hatred or distrust of women. The women in my most recent program were from the whole spectrum of political ideologies, but this year’s election campaign elevated both the term misogyny (which is not really a new word but had almost disappeared from use) and awareness of the behaviors associated with it to the level of national discourse. Misogyny has always been with us, but we often didn’t see it, had become numb to it, or did not have a name for it. This election campaign brought misogynistic attitudes and behaviors to the surface and out in the open. It’s also possible that some misogynistic behaviors are increasing because of the campaign rhetoric. As an example, Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times reports that in September of this year, six women, each walking separately in midtown Manhattan in the early evening hours, were approached by young men who tried to light them on fire. Only females were targeted in these attacks. Bellafante suggests that Donald Trump’s campaign inflicted damage on our culture by bringing to the surface male rage. It has always been there, somewhat hidden, but may have been unleashed. She reports that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, discovered during the past four years a “dark world of woman hatred” in online forums that denigrate and condemn women as liars, cheaters, whores and social cancers” and advocate their imprisonment and collective rape. Remember the phrases liar and lock her up during the campaign? These phrases were not created by Donald Trump just for Hillary Clinton. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that for “the radical right in recent years, misogyny has become an increasingly common means of articulating broader discontent.” This is quite a serious matter. Here are some other examples of misogyny in the United States today:
- One in five women and one in seventy-one men in the United States have been raped.
- Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by husbands or boyfriends.
- Many universities in the United States are under pressure for sheltering athletes and coaches accused of rape and of disbelieving their accusers. For example, in the Stanford rape case involving swimmer Brock Turner, the university sheltered him, and his father defended him by explaining that he should not be punished because he was “only having a little fun” when he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman on campus. Turner was eventually convicted after a large public outcry forced his arrest.
- A survey last year of twenty-seven college campuses by the Association of American Universities found that 23 percent of women responding reported experiencing sexual assault since enrolling in their university. Harvard found sexual assault to be widespread on campus with 31 percent of the class of 2015 reporting some form of it.
- Because of misogyny, it is difficult for women to be elected to high offices, such as president of the United States or secretary general of the United Nations. There has never been a woman in either role. After seven strong and qualified women were recently rejected as the next leader of the United Nations in favor of one more man, one female diplomat explained, “Misogyny is baked into this system.”
‘Locker room talk’ is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is a locker room. The actions and the words of the 2012 men’s soccer team have deeply hurt us. They were careless, disgusting, and appalling. As women of Harvard Soccer and of the world, we want to take this experience as an opportunity to encourage our fellow women to band together in combatting this [misogynistic] type of behavior because we are a team and we are stronger when we are united. To the men of Harvard soccer and to the men of the world, we invite you to join us, because ultimately we are all members of the same team. We are human beings and we should be treated with dignity. We want your help in combatting this. We need your help in preventing this.”]]>
Does watching Mika Brzezinski get constantly interrupted by Joe Scarborough every morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe make you as angry as it makes me? And, yes, I do know that Scarborough interrupts all of his guests, but Brzezinski is his coanchor and often the only woman at the political round-table discussions hosted by the show. I often find watching how she is interrupted, talked over, and disregarded so upsetting that I have to turn the show off. She is smart and has a lot to say, but she is continually not allowed to make her points. Unfortunately, as I wrote in a previous article about research on women getting interrupted in business settings, this happens everywhere. Now new research, described by Marie Tessier of the New York Times, addresses the consequences of women’s voices being underrepresented in public affairs due to more frequent negative interruptions in meetings and harsh feedback online. When women don’t feel that their opinions are valued, they become less willing to share them. Tessier notes that researchers report that women’s voices are underrepresented in many public affairs settings like school board meetings, town meetings, rural community meetings, and online news sites. The researchers found that “women take up just a quarter to a third of discussion time where policy is discussed and decisions made, except when they are in the majority.” This includes online discussions of public affairs where “women’s voices are outnumbered three to one in news comments, according to data from the University of Sydney and Stanford University.” What are the possible consequences of women’s voices being underrepresented in public affairs? Tessier suggests these outcomes:
- Democratic institutions may not accurately reflect the will of the people.
- Issues of particular concern to women, such as care for children, older people, and people with disabilities, may not become funding priorities.
- In Congress, the police, or the military, where women are underrepresented, there is a greater danger of policy decisions being skewed against survivors of sexual assault, against prosecution of sexual assault offenders, or against gender pay equity.
- Increase the number of women on school boards and in meetings. Women are interrupted and disregarded less often when they are in the majority.
- Increase the number of women in leadership. Women speak more when a woman is leading.
- Build networks, teams, and alliances to get ideas heard.
- Institute a “no interruption” rule in meetings and rules to ensure equal floor time for women.
I often hear two commonly held myths from my audiences when I make presentations on gender in the workplace: Myth #1: Things must be different for the younger generation of women and men in the workplace—gender dynamics, in general, must have changed for them. Myth #2: Technology firms like Google, as young companies that reflect youth culture, must have postsexist cultures. My audiences reason that surely young women do not have the same challenges that older women face in more mature organizations. Sorry, but wrong on all counts. In a recent article in the Boston Globe, author Callum Borchers notes that even though high-tech companies create “hip” workspaces to promote creativity and attract young workers, they still have “shades of man cave everywhere.” Borchers explains that the combination of beer kegs, ping-pong tables, Xboxes, and networking events after hours during family time can leave female workers feeling like outsiders. In addition, some women describe hypercompetitive, clubby, and aggressive work styles in these companies that reflect an adult frat-house culture where they receive subtle messages that they do not belong. And the messages are not always subtle. Two different women in the gaming industry in Boston recently received, at different times, online rape and death threats telling them to get out of the gaming world. Not all women in technology feel this way, of course, or have these negative experiences, but the low numbers of women in technology probably reflect a number of factors, which include subtle messages, pervasive stereotypes about women not being capable in math and science, few role models, and pervasive unconscious discrimination. Here are some statistics:
- 15–17 percent of technology employees in most Silicon Valley companies, which includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, are women.
- 26 percent of computer science professionals nationwide are female, while 8 percent are black and 6 percent are Hispanic.
- 3 percent of venture-backed technology start-ups nationwide have a female chief executive.
- Invite women to pitch ideas inside the company to overcome a tendency for women to hesitate until they feel their idea is perfectly developed.
- Form gender-balanced panels to interview applicants for open positions or to consider promotions to overcome unconscious bias that results in women not being hired or promoted at the same rate as men.
- Establish a private room for breast pumping to help attract the best young female talent, and develop family-friendly policies. Women pay attention to these details when deciding where they want to work.
- Establish mentoring, sponsorship, and support programs for women within the company.
- Fund scholarships for women to study math and science, and sponsor competitions that include lots of women.
- Create networking events during work hours or that families can attend (instead of golf outings or after-hours drinking and cigar parties—yes, these still occur).
- Encourage men to be allies and redirect attention to women’s ideas when women are ignored in meetings.
- Raise awareness of the double binds that women face in the workplace and how women and men can work together to overcome them.