John Allan, the former CEO of Tesco, faces claims of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior from four women. Four. He tells us that there are many “men who are nervous working with women.”
Now you know how we women have felt our entire lives. Sort of. But not really.
Before you say anything in defense of Allan, let’s get some facts in front of you. The default but erroneous narrative that women make up these stories is just that.
According to research done at Brown University, “false reports of sexual assault are consistently very low, ranging from 2% to 10%. This is similar to rates of all false reports for other crimes.”
Sexual harassment is so imbued in our culture that we hardly even notice it. Until we do. Remember Harvey Weinstein’s claims that those women were making up stories to take him down? Eighty women. Shame on you, Harvey!
#TimesUp woke the world to what most women already knew: Men have power, but women don’t, which is why sexual harassment in the workplace is normative.
For those who are new to the planet, I’d like to explain sexual harassment to you. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors (implicit or explicit), calling out someone’s sexual orientation, and other verbal and physical harassment of a sexual nature. It runs the gamut from oh-so-subtle (Did he even realize I was in the room when he repeated that off-color joke?) to sexual assault and rape.
None of this behavior is acceptable, in any form. Ever. Consider this: teasing, joking, kidding and fooling around, can easily morph into sexual harassment. en find this most confounding.
Ironically, it is not uncommon that when this behavior is divulged, many women will say, “It’s no big deal,” “I don’t want to be called a bit*ch, or, worse yet, goody-two-shoes,” “If I say something, I’ll be told I’m not a team player,” and let’s not forget my favorite, “boys will be boys.”
Sexual harassment IS a big deal. We’ve just been acculturated to say it’s not. As women we are most often the ‘other’ and we don’t want to make our lives even more uncomfortable by adding this issue to it.
Some women become sexually toxic themselves. Their attitude seems to be, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Ugly either way.
I have worked with hundreds of women who have had unwelcome sexual experiences in the workplace; words, gestures, glances, violence, rapes, all of it. These women and I have dissected the issue to exhaustion, looking for solutions to curb this sexual tide. We consistently end up in the same place; While self-awareness is critical to recognizing and thwarting unwanted sexual advances, it’s not everything. Transforming our culture is.
I know what sexual harassment feels like from being a witness to the endless litany of stories women bring me. Through them I live with its indelible impact on their thinking and their bodies. I’ve grown used to them telling me how their eroded trust hasn’t been restored. I’ve befriended the emotional upheaval that left them permanently traumatized. Though distant and faded, they carry the memories of the blame and shame, often decades later.
It’s raw. Uncomfortable. Their stories make me feel like my skin is on inside out.
Personally, I do not welcome not-so-subtle sexual innuendos, and I do not welcome jokes of a sexual nature in a business environment. In my personal circles, you’d better know me damn well before you ask my permission (yes, permission) to tell me an off-color joke.
What’s a nervous guy to do?
Here’s a simple litmus test to determine if your behavior crosses the line into sexual harassment. No more guessing.
- If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, mother, sister, wife, or daughter, don’t say it to a woman you work with.
- If you wouldn’t do it to your grandmother, mother, sister, wife, or daughter, don’t do it to a woman you work with.
- If you wouldn’t allow a stranger or a colleague to do or say it to your grandmother, mother, sister, wife, or daughter, don’t let them do it or say it to a woman you work with.
Finally, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times.
Now before I go, I want to give you a heads-up that might just be the key to
- attracting and retaining high performance women in your organization
- a healthy, loving and intimate marriage
- a phenomenal sex life
- raising a daughter who is smart, confident, and emotionally intelligent,
- ditto for a son
Women have had enough; Not all women, but enough to make a difference.
The election, #MeToo, #TimesUp, the Pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd—these events radically changed us women. We are increasingly owning our power. We’re speaking up. We’re stepping out of our comfort zone. We’re trusting ourselves more. We’re giving ourselves permission to create a workplace that sees, hears and celebrates us.
We’re creating a LeaderForce® of women who are done with patriarchal BS.
We’re done being harassed. Done being passed over for promotions. Done being marginalized. Done being muted. Done feeling we’re not enough or not worthy or not lovable or not deserving. We are done and we’re changing the rules of leadership. Are you paying attention?
So, guys, should you be nervous about working with women?
Yup, but not because you’ll be accused of sexually harassing us. We, women, are forming a movement to disrupt the status quo. It’s working, and it’s formidable. People are listening to us. Our once fledgling women’s movement shouldn’t be ignored. You can do something to move equitable empowerment forward or you can take a back seat. There’s no longer any place for neutral.
Nancy D. Solomon, CEO of WomenThink®, is a seasoned professional development visionary with over three decades of experience. Specializing in empowering women in male-dominated sectors like technology and finance, her unique blend of New York sass, humor, and heartfelt approach aids individuals and organizations in realizing their potential. Nancy’s deep understanding of human drivers helps clients maximize impact, including giants like Microsoft and Target. Under her leadership, WomenThink® has become the go-to company for ambitious women seeking alignment of work, life, purpose, beliefs, and values.
Get in touch:
Phone +1 949.966.1195