Women and Cross-Generational Friendship

While in my forties, I met a woman, Becky, in her eighties who, like me, had chosen not to have children. I was worried that I would feel lonely in my old age and regret my decision. When I met Becky, I asked her if, now that she was in her eighties, she felt lonely and regretted her decision not to have children. She replied, “I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I’m old, but I’m not lonely yet. The secret is to have younger friends!” That was the most liberating perspective I had ever heard, and I stopped worrying. I have been cultivating, nourishing, and cherishing my friendships with younger women ever since I met Becky, and my life has been enriched in so many ways.

Not surprisingly, I was delighted to read recently of two types of intentional cross-generational groupings gaining momentum in the United States. The first type is intentional cross-generational gatherings in person and online for personal and professional support. The second type is a movement that brings socially active progressive millennials and social activist Roman Catholic nuns together to learn from and nourish each other.

Abby Ellin, writing for the New York Times, reports that intergenerational women’s groups are forming both in-person and online to “share stores, concerns and triumphs” across generations. Meetings take place online and in cities across the country, convened by individuals who recognize a need for personal and professional friendship and support among women. Participants can range from twenty-nine to ninety-three years of age in these meetings, and the topics vary widely:

  • Money issues
  • Blended families
  • Widowhood
  • Invisibility after fifty
  • Problems between mothers and daughters
  • Professional advancements and double binds in the workplace
  • Living and coping in times of political uncertainty
  • Understanding our aging bodies (age thirty to ninety)

The author notes that women of all ages can find it difficult to make new friends as adults. The demands of work and family life can leave women feeling socially isolated. She also notes that millennials and boomers who work together often tend to stick with their same-age cohorts outside of the office. That’s why the purpose of these intergenerational groups is not only to exchange information but to create settings where people can discover common interests and cross-generational friendships can form. These friendships are enriching when wisdom and energy are shared in both directions (younger to older and vice versa). Here is a sample of some of these gatherings:

  • Honey Good and Moxie!—informal gatherings in Palm Springs and Chicago and other cities around the country, convened by Ms. Honey Good
  • Spaghetti Project—a monthly, work-related gathering in Manhattan created by Erica Keswin
  • Generation Women—a monthly reading series in New York and Sidney, Australia, where women from multiple generations read short stories and essays together

The second type of intergenerational group that recently emerged, called Nuns and Nones, is described by Nellie Bowles in the New York Times. The pilot project, launched by a group of millennials (who are the least religious group of people in America), came about when a group of young social activists, who also describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (Nones), went looking for intentional communities of people living radical activist lives with total devotion to their causes. During their search, one of the millennials, a thirty-two-year-old man named Adam Horowitz, realized that the people already living this way are nuns. A six-month pilot project was launched by Horowitz and a group of progressive millennials with the Catholic Sisters of Mercy in Burlington, California. Bowles quotes one of the Nones, Sarah Jane Bradley, as explaining, “These are radical, badass women who have lived lives devoted to social justice. And we can learn from them.” The group moved into the convent for six months for the pilot project, and Nuns and Nones is now running groups in a dozen cities. In each group, sisters and millennials meet regularly and sometimes live together. Each group benefits in some of the following ways:

  • The young people are learning old wisdom traditions that can feed change.
  • The sisters find themselves called back again to a larger vision through discussions with millennials.
  • The young people learn to avoid burnout by studying the sisters who have made social change a lifestyle.
  • The nuns, whose numbers have been declining steadily since the 1960s, get help with holding on to their property by moving young people into convents.
  • The young people get low-income housing in exchange for helping take care of the sisters.

These intergenerational relationships are good for everyone. Just ask Becky!


Photo courtesy of Fortune Live Media (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Five Reasons Why It Is Time for Universal Day Care

Did you know that we almost got affordable, high-quality universal day care in the United States in 1971? Katha Pollitt writes in the New York Times that bipartisan legislation, the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, was passed by both houses of Congress—and vetoed by President Richard Nixon. Nixon’s veto resulted from pressure by the Christian right to resist “communal approaches to child rearing” that would undermine “the family centered approach.” In 1971, the women’s liberation movement was gaining steam and beginning to threaten established gender roles. Nixon was able to prevent a veto override by appealing to an existing hostility toward women working and being mothers and to a fear of communism in our Cold War culture. But as Pollitt notes, times have changed. Most mothers of small children now work (and some always did), and the fear of communism has been replaced by the growing popularity of mixed economy, social democratic welfare states successfully modeled in Western Europe. Pollitt argues that it is time to put affordable, high-quality universal day care at the top of the Democratic Party agenda ahead of proposals for free public education, health care for all, and a living wage. She notes that while these are all important causes, if we cannot afford them all and must choose, universal day care would help the most people and do more to change society for the better. She explains that “only about a third of Americans age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher” (though more would probably try for a degree if it were affordable). By comparison, 86 percent of American women are mothers by the age of 44 and are struggling with access and the cost of day care. Pollitt notes that the lack of stable and affordable day care in the United States creates a crisis for families and has a huge impact on women’s employment:

  • Women who want and need to work and who have partners are often the ones who quit to stay home when day care is not stable or affordable. This lack of stable and affordable day care is a primary reason that women’s workforce participation has stalled and even decreased.
  • When unstable day care arrangements fall apart and women miss work, they can be legally fired. Being fired is economically devastating for their families and especially dire for single mothers.
  • The decision for women to quit working because of day care costs has more implications for a woman’s future than just a lost paycheck: she will have less Social Security in her old age; she will have fewer promotions during her working life, even if she returns to work when the children are older; her skills may become outdated; she will lose professional contacts while she stays home; when a woman stays home, previously egalitarian couples often revert to traditional gender roles, which are maintained even when she goes back to work.
Pollitt argues that now is the time for bold policy agendas, and universal day care should top the list because “It’s good for workers and employers, for communities and families and children.” Specifically, it would do the following:
  1. Create lots of jobs
  2. Alow lots of people to go to work
  3. Raise incomes
  4. Relieve stress and unhappiness
  5. Give children a good start in life
It does seem that now is the time for universal day care. Actually, it is past the time when we should have both affordable, high-quality universal day care and paid family leave in the United States. Caitlyn Collins reminds us that the United States is “the only country in the industrialized world without federally mandated paid maternity leave.” The levels of stress that American families experience is an urgent political issue that requires a political solution. How many people do you know who would benefit? Let us hear from you.   Photo courtesy of https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/kids-playing-with-puzzle-education-concept-gm669922316-122456419 (iStock standard license).]]>

How #MeToo Exposes Our Antiquated Laws: Women Are Not Protected

In many instances over the past year, #MeToo has helped multiple women discover they were abused by the same powerful man, but the victims were unable to file a criminal complaint because the statute of limitations had expired.

High-profile examples include Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. Ginia Bellafante of the New York Times notes that in another high-profile case, that of disgraced former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the prosecutor just announced that no charges will be filed for domestic violence committed against several women because their cases are all past the statute of limitations. Bellafante explains that there has been pressure on the legal system for some time to expand or eliminate these time frames, but little progress has been made. She notes, “Serial predators will continue to elude punishment, given that the crimes they commit often occur over a period that can span decades. Cases built on one or two recent accusations [like those of Weinstein and Cosby]—ignoring along-term pattern of abuse—easily fall apart.” There is now abundant evidence that the trauma of sexual abuse combined with fear of retribution by powerful abusers often causes assaults to go unreported until well past the statute of limitation allowed by law.

Our laws need updating in other ways as well to hold sexual abusers criminally accountable. For example, Bellafante explains that it was not clear what crimes Schneiderman could be charged with for physically attacking and demeaning aseries of women with whom he was involved:

  • Felony assault requires the demonstration of significant injury, such as a broken limb.
  • Misdemeanor assault requires proof of substantial physical pain but does not include mental anguish.
  • A prosecutor must be able to prove there was intent to cause physical injury, which can be invalidated by claiming that injury resulted from momentary passion or anger but was “not intended.”

In addition, our laws need clarification and expansion to include protocols and standards requiring colleges to call the police to report campus rape and assault. Instead, new rules recently released by Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education protect schools but not students. Dana Bolger explains the following about these rules:

  • They narrow what counts as sexual harassment. The rules require that harassment must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access” to education. Even a rape may not count as sexual harassment under this standard because a one-time act of violence is “not pervasive.”
  • They only hold schools accountable when they are“deliberately indifferent” to sexual harassment.

We also need to clarify the standards used to hold someone accountable for rape or attempted rape when there are no corroborating witnesses. The deck is stacked against women regardless of how long it takes them to come forward to seek justice for an assault.

Our laws need to change.

Photo courtesy of southernfried (morguefile)


California Passes New Legislation to Put More Women on Boards: Why This Matters

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times writes that in August 2018, the California legislature passed a bill, approved on a 23–9 vote, requiring firms based in the state to include women on their boards. This bill mandates publicly held corporations in California to have at least one woman by 2019. By 2021, at least two women will be required for boards with five or fewer directors, while at least three will be required for boards of six or more. The coauthors of this bill, state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and senate leader Toni Atkins, explained that because only 15 percent of the directors of public corporations in California are women, while women make up 52 percent of the state’s population, women’s interests are not adequately represented on boards. In an earlier post, I wrote about the benefits of diversifying boards:

  • Boards set long-term direction and policies, including those that create family-friendly workplaces.
  • Boards are in charge of hiring and firing CEOs. Research shows that people tend to hire others like them. With few women and minorities on boards, talented women and minorities may be overlooked for CEO roles, keeping the glass ceiling in place.
  • Companies with more diverse boards pay higher dividends and enjoy more stable stock prices.
McGreevy notes that Senators Jackson and Atkins agree that having more women on boards will benefit the economy. The senators also stated, “We are not going to ask anymore. We are tired of being nice. We are tired of being polite. We are going to require this [change].” Vanessa Fuhrmans and Alejandro Lazo of the Wall Street Journal explain that “the U.S. has no federal requirement for female representation on company boards and no other U.S. state has successfully pushed such a mandate.” In contrast, the Guardian reports that the European Union has proposed that boards increase female directors to as high as 40 percent, following similar mandates in several other European countries. This follows a trend in the EU, where the number of women on the boards of the largest companies more than doubled between 2005 and 2015. Once again, California leads the way for the United States. Change doesn’t happen without pressure and legislation. Those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo will do so—unless they have no choice. Electing women to public office will keep moving us forward. What other legislative goals might improve representation for women in the corporate workplace?   Photo courtesy of rawpixel.com.]]>

Forgotten Women in History

I have often wondered, “Where are the women in history? Where are the inventors, pioneers, artists, and leaders who must have existed but are missing from our history books and museums? I applaud the New York Times for acknowledging that their paper has historically ignored the accomplishments of women in both news stories and obituaries. In their attempts to make amends, they are now belatedly publishing some of those stories—and they are fascinating! Here are a few: Ada Lovelace (1815–1852): Claire Cain Miller writes of Ada Lovelace, a mathematician in England who, in 1843, “described how the computer would work, imagined its potential, and wrote the first program” as an addendum, entitled “Notes,” to an academic paper that she translated. Lovelace explained that the computer could not just calculate but could also create, as it “weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Miller cites Walter Isaacson as saying, “This insight would become the core concept of the digital age.” When her work was rediscovered in the midtwentieth century, the Defense Department was inspired to name a programming language after her. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823–1893): Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the “first black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper, one of the first black female lawyers in the United States, and an advocate for granting women the right to vote,” writes Megan Specia. Shadd Cary’s first published work was a long letter advocating “We should do more and talk less” to improve the lives of black people in America. She wrote her letter to the newspaper published by African American abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass, who published her letter in its entirety. Born in 1823 to abolitionist parents who often gave refuge to fugitive slaves, Shadd Cary and some members of her family moved to Canada when Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. Shadd Cary threw herself into encouraging hunted black fugitives to migrate to Canada to safety through her newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, which she established in Ontario. She also traveled by horseback or stagecoach at great personal risk to cross the border back into America to talk about how black people would benefit from life in Canada. After the Civil War she moved back to the United States, graduated from Howard University with a law degree, and thrust herself into the suffrage movement, even though black women often found themselves marginalized in the movement by white women. Esther Morris (1814–1902): In 1869, at the age of 54, Esther Morris moved to the territory of Wyoming where that year the women of Wyoming gained the right to vote and hold public office—about fifty years before Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. By 1870, less than one year later, the first women were sworn in as jurors in the Wyoming territory, and Morris was appointed as the first female justice of the peace. Jessica Anderson tells us that while Morris was the first woman in the United States to become a judge, she is not mentioned in the history books. Nonetheless, the state of Wyoming has always honored her as “Mother Morris” with a statue in front of the state capitol, and as one of the two statues every state is allowed to place in the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Morris’s statue is just one of nine women (out of one hundred) represented in the collection in Washington. Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919): Madam C. J. Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Walker invented a line of African American hair products in 1905 that grew into the manufacture of hair products and cosmetics. She used her savvy business acumen to build an empire that trained sales beauticians who became well-known throughout the black community not only for product sales but for philanthropic and educational efforts among the African American community. Walker was herself known for her civil rights activism and philanthropy involving educational scholarships and homes for the elderly. But the New York Times has yet to pay her a proper tribute—maybe she’ll be next on their list. I now count these women as some of my heroines from long ago. Who are yours?]]>

Working Women Are Happier

An interesting new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Federal Reserve, which looks at eighty years of workplace history, reports interesting findings: over time, women have become happier and more satisfied with work, while men have become less happy and less satisfied. Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe notes that the researchers acknowledge the challenges of measuring something like happiness and satisfaction when they don’t use a consistent year-by-year survey that asks the same questions. But the researchers explain that they built their research on several existing solid studies and devised new methods of data analysis to draw the longitudinal conclusion that only women have improved their working lives. Here are some reasons for this gender difference offered by the researchers:

  • Changing social norms allowed more women to enter the workplace in recent decades.
  • The work options available for working women have expanded dramatically since the 1950s, and even more so since the 1990s.
  • Women have been shifting into better jobs with less clerical activity and more professional and managerial jobs and fewer assembly-line jobs.
  • More women than men now graduate in the United States with college and graduate school degrees, which increases their options.
  • Lower-educated women have enjoyed the greatest increase in workplace satisfaction, possibly because they were the most constrained to begin with under the old gendered rules.
What about men? Why is their satisfaction lower than in the past? The researchers have some suggestions:
  • While physically demanding work, such as mining and assembly-line work, has become less common, men seem to enjoy factory work much more than women do. Consequently, the shift from assembly lines to desk work left women feeling more content and men feeling less content.
  • The shift from assembly-line work also coincides with the erosion of labor union membership and job security, leaving men feeling more stress and less contentment even when they are able to find factory work.
The researchers note that their findings of decreased happiness and satisfaction with work for men “is consistent with a growing body of research about the struggles of men.” While I definitely do not wish for men to be less happy with their work, I do note, with pride, the increased happiness of women in the workplace. I am grateful for the struggles of the second-wave feminist movement since the 1960s to open up work options for women. I remember when very few options existed for women. The struggle is not over. I have written recent articles about the gender pay gap and challenges that women still face with having access to leadership roles and to nontraditional jobs. But I am pleased that we have more options and are happier. Do you “remember when”? What do see that is different for women now?   Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]]>

Why We Don’t See Women as Leaders and Why This Matters

The number of women leaders in the largest companies in the United States declined by 25 percent this year, as reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times. Because the number of female chief executives is small to begin with, the departure of even one, such as the recent departure of Denise Morrison as the CEO of Campbell Soup Company, has a big numerical impact. In fact, the number of female CEOs has dropped from thirty-two to twenty-four in the past year. Why does it matters that so few women are CEOs and that the numbers are declining? One reason is that unconscious assumptions about gender determine who gets seen as leadership material when managers need to hire or promote. In a study reported by Heather Murphy of the New York Times, both women and men almost always draw a man when asked to draw an effective leader. Murphy reports on another study where research participants were asked to listen in by phone to a fictional sales meeting. In some of the “meetings,” study participants heard “Eric” offer change-oriented ideas while other participants heard “Erica” read the same script. When research participants were asked to rate the speaker, either Eric or Erica, on how much he or she had exhibited leadership, the Erics were far more likely than the Ericas to be identified as leaders, even though the Ericas shared exactly the same ideas. Murphy cites Nilanjana Dasgupta of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who explains that “when people are consistently exposed to leaders who fit one profile [male], they will be more likely to notice leaders who fit that same profile in the future.” In other words, even when a woman acts like a leader, her talents are less likely to be noticed or identified as leadership because the generally accepted profile of a leader is a man. This inherent bias is why it matters that the number of women in high visibility CEO roles in big companies is declining. Murphy points out that we need to see more women in leadership roles to expand our unconscious assumptions about who can be an effective leader—and instead the numbers are declining. In fact, depressingly, every female executive who stepped down during the past year was replaced by a man. Miller notes that the obstacles for female executives are rooted in biases against women in power. In fact, Miller cites two studies to make her case:

  • Both women and men have families, but caregiving is considered to be a woman’s problem and, therefore, limits the opportunities made available to women.
  • Leadership ability does not appear to be affected by gender differences. A study of 2,600 executives found no difference in multiple areas assessed, including interpersonal skills, analytical and managerial skills, and general ability. Yet women were much less likely to become chief executives.
This problem is clearly a vicious cycle. Because we don’t see women in executive roles, women don’t get the opportunity to be hired or promoted into executive roles. We have to keep challenging both women and men to examine their unconscious biases about who can be an effective leader. We must also continue to push for more women on corporate boards who will hopefully push for more women to be considered for CEO roles, and we need to elect women to office where they can raise these issues legislatively. Let’s keep asking, “Where are the women?”   Photo courtesy of Vector Open Stock (CC BY 2.0)]]>

The Women of Nike Force Change

The women of Nike, the sportswear company, got tired of their complaints to human resources about sexual harassment and discrimination falling on deaf ears. The women experienced retribution for filing complaints, and several high-level women left the company, sharing that they left because of frustration with the toxic company culture that they could not influence. So the women of Nike took matters into their own hands—and the public saw another example of employees bringing about change that would not have happened otherwise. Julie Creswell, Kevin Draper, and Rachel Abrams, writing for the New York Times, report that after years of complaining to human resources and seeing no evidence of change or accountability for bad behavior within the company, a group of women decided to covertly survey their female peers, “inquiring whether they had been the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.” Those who had a complaint or a story to tell completed a questionnaire, sharing shocking and frustrating anecdotes:

  • Explanations from several high-level women about why they had exited the company, including a pattern of watching men get promoted while equally or better qualified women were passed over.
  • A range of stories about demeaning behavior toward women, such as male superiors referring to women using a vulgar term for women’s genitals or being called a “stupid bitch” by a boss.
  • Stories of women being excluded from the inner circle of mostly male decision makers.
  • Examples of a culture belittling to women where male supervisors openly discussed their favorite strip clubs during work outings.
  • The story of a senior manager who mentioned a female employee’s breasts in an email to her.
  • The story of a manager who kept magazines on his desk with scantily clad women on the cover and bragged about his supply of condoms.
In most of the examples above, the women recounted going to human resources to file a complaint or ask for action to punish the offender. More often than not, human resource managers told these women that they were wrong or that corrective action would be taken—but it never was. In some cases after a complaint was filed, the offender was promoted and the woman complaining was laid off. Finally, when the package of completed questionnaires was put on the desk of the CEO by the women, things started to change. Several top male executives exited over the next few weeks, including the head of diversity and inclusion, and the exits are continuing. A major overhaul is taking place of the human resources processes and internal systems for reporting sexual harassment and discrimination. Nike is a huge company but huge companies can change quickly if the right kind of pressure is applied from within and made public. And clearly, without pressure change does not happen. Thanks to the women of Nike for taking the risk to tell their stories.   Photo courtesy of perzon seo (CC BY 2.0)]]>

How Women Are Changing Mainstream Politics

Women are running for office in record numbers since the 2016 election. Michael Tackett of the New York Times writes that Clinton’s loss triggered not only a surge of female candidates but also a surge of young women managing campaigns and “reshap[ing] a profession long dominated by men.” Many women running for office want female campaign managers who will shape winning messages and plan bold platforms and strategies. Tackett reports that this year, 40 percent of campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women—a dramatic increase from the negligible numbers counted in a 2010 study conducted by Rutger’s University Center for American Women and Politics. Many of the campaign messages produced so far this year by both Republican and Democratic women are changing the rules of politics. Stephanie Ebbert of the Boston Globe notes that “running like a man often doesn’t work” for women. Women candidates are throwing caution to the wind and, according to Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, are “running very boldly.” For example:

  • One Republican congresswoman running for the Senate told her party in a campaign ad to “grow a pair of ovaries.”
  • Two Democratic candidates for governor have created ads to pitch their candidacies while breast-feeding on camera.
  • A Democratic woman asked in her campaign ad, “Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?”
  • The Vote Me Too PAC is running ads that say, “51 percent of our population has vaginas. 81 percent of members of Congress don’t have vaginas. [This] leads to a culture where sexual discrimination and sexual violence are tolerated.”
Ebbert quotes Kelley Ditmas, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University, who says that women are touting “their gender as a value-added, as a credential, as one among many merits that they bring to office-holding.” Susan Chira of the New York Times writes that women running for office are using motherhood not just as a credential but also as a weapon in some of the following ways:
  • They tell their own wrenching stories of sick children and their fears for them as they watch their government attack healthcare.
  • They tout their experiences with motherhood helping them to hone the skill of multitasking, which will help them cut through the gridlock in Congress.
  • They tell stories of their fears of gun violence in their children’s neighborhoods and schools as they support gun control measures.
  • In one campaign ad where the candidate was breast-feeding on camera, she linked her work as a state legislator to a bill she helped pass to ban BPA from baby bottles.
As part of the record-breaking surge of women running for office, Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times notes that a historic number of Native American women are running for elective office. No Native American woman has ever served in the U.S. Congress. Four are running for Congress and many more are running for seats in state government. This surge is partly the result of liberal energy unleashed by the 2016 election, the #MeToo movement, and a broader move of Native Americans into mainstream politics in recent years. Turkewitz shares the story of Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, a Native American woman running for office. Haaland argues that many of the issues affecting native communities, such as low wage jobs, violence against women, and access to safe and affordable healthcare, affect everyone. In several states, the Native American population is large enough to sway elections. Having more women in elected office can create great change as issues concerning women gain more support. These are exciting times to support women candidates. Let’s encourage everyone to vote in primaries and the November elections.   Photo courtesy of Chris Tse (CC BY-ND 2.0)]]>

Sexual Harassment: New Research on the Numbers

The #MeToo Movement has surprising momentum and appears to be reshaping our national dialogue and workplace cultures—at last! It seems that every week we read about high profile men (and some women) getting fired for sexual harassment. Almost every organization I work with as a consultant reports firing or disciplining employees in a variety of roles and levels for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has been in the news at various times in the past, including in 1991 when Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Senate confirmation hearing. But we have not been able to grasp the seriousness of the problem as a society, “believe the women” bringing accusations, or undertake research that can help us understand the depth and breadth of the problem. Susan Chira of the New York Times cites Holly Kearl, author of an important new study, as explaining why we must take this problem seriously: “Sexual harassment is a human rights violation—whether it takes place on the sidewalk of a street or in an executive boardroom—because it can cause emotional harm and limit and change harassed persons’ lives.” I can personally attest to that. The #MeToo Movement has provided an outlet for women and men to share their stories and finally be heard. The scope of the problem fueling and sustaining the movement has finally been documented in Kearl’s study. This study asks about a broader range of behaviors in multiple locations, not just in the workplace, over a longer time span and provides a clearer picture of the pervasiveness of this problem than we have had to date. Previous studies had a narrower focus, such as only in the workplace, only about rape or assault, or only during a narrow band of age, and did not give the whole picture. Chira notes that this well-designed study asked a nationally representative sample of one thousand women and one thousand men about verbal harassment, sexual touching, cyber sexual harassment, being followed on the street, genital flashing, and sexual assault in public spaces, in workplaces, in schools, online, and in homes. The findings from this study highlight the extent of this problem:

  • Eighty-one percent of women and 43 percent of men said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault over their lifetimes.
  • Seventy-seven percent of women and 34 percent of men said they had encountered verbal sexual harassment.
  • Fifty-one percent of women and 17 percent of men reported unwelcome sexual touching.
  • Forty-one percent of women and 22 percent of men said they were sexually harassed online.
  • About a third of women and one in ten men reported being physically followed, while 30 percent of women and 12 percent of men experienced genital flashing.
  • Twenty-seven percent of women and 7 percent of men reported sexual assaults.
  • Few differences were found by race or ethnicity among women who reported harassment. Hispanic men reported the most sexual harassment and assault in every category the survey recorded for men.
  • People who reported having a disability were much more likely to experience sexual harassment and assault.
  • Lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men were more likely to experience sexual assault than straight women and men.
Thanks to studies like this one, we can finally have an informed dialogue about the need for strategies to address this problem and stop it from being swept under the rug again. Let’s keep the pressure on for change.   Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo (CC BY 2.0)]]>