The press continues to be filled with sexual harassment and discrimination scandals coming out of the woodwork. The#me too hashtag has unleashed a tsunami of stories and everyone from celebrity chef John Besh to Fidelity is getting caught up. Of course, it is no secret that this despicable behavior has been going on for years, and it seems our legal system has had a large hand in protecting serial harassers. In fact, it will take an act of Congress to end the confidentiality agreements that ensure secrecy around the proceedings, and this is important because transparency is, more often than not, needed to compel employers to put an end to cultures that foster harassment in the first place. The full article can be found here.
As with any problem, the thing to watch is always the response. Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity came out quickly and decisively noting that the firm had zero tolerance for harassment and all claims would be investigated. Contrast this with Fox News that knew of Bill O’Reilly’s $32 million settlement with a fellow employee and the network renewed his contract anyway. Dear readers, I would ask each of you to vote with your purse. It really is time to stop turning a blind eye to this rotten behavior. I hope in my lifetime we get to a world where this behavior is the exception rather than the norm, but for it to change, there must be consequences. Most men out there are as horrified as women are at this behavior, and CNN published an opinion piece that answers the question, what can decent men do in response to #me too? The full article can be found here. Please take a moment to share this with the men in your life.
Real estate is another male-dominated industry with women leading just 6% of all funds. NYU’s Schack Institute hosted the first National Women in RE Symposium recently and the action steps needed to create more diversity in the industry can be found here.
And of course, with progress comes those who would like to try to figure out a way around it – it seems the tech industry is trying to sell us the “cognitive diversity” bill of goods. Their thinking goes something like this: “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” That is not to say that cognitive and viewpoint diversity are not important, but “the effort to hire people with different points of view must not come at the expense of hiring members of actual underrepresented communities who add tangible, bottom-line value — and who deserve to work in tech as much as anyone.” The full article can be found here.
Finally, a recent Pew Research study noted that 96% of survey respondents said that gender equality is important, but there was a large schism on the question of how much has been achieved. Fifty percent said the country had not gone far enough in giving women equal rights, forty percent say it’s been about right and ten percent say we have gone too far. Interestingly more than two thirds of Democrats say the country needs to do more for women while only a quarter of Republicans believe this to be the case. The full article can be found here.
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