I cannot say #Metoo, but since this hashtag started trending several weeks ago, I have asked myself two questions. First, how would I feel if something like this happened to me and secondly, why so many women waited so long to speak up.
I don’t, of course, pretend to fully understand something that I have not experienced first-hand, but as a female who has for years worked on the challenges associated with diversity in the workplace, I offer some speculation.
As an Executive Recruiter specializing in senior level executive and board of director search and as such I know something about the structure of corporate leadership in this country. And it should come as no surprise that boards and CEOs have always been, and in large part are, still dominated by men. Most of the time this feels wrong for a multitude of reasons. Importantly, it is not good for business.
In 2013 Catalyst (the nonprofit that promotes inclusive workplaces) found that companies with the most female directors had better financial performance and this has since been demonstrated time and again.
It also feels wrong because diversity has been shown to improve decision making. And women now receive not only more bachelor’s degrees than men (57.3% to 42.9% in 2017 per the US Department of Education), but this trend holds true for Master’s and Doctorate degrees as well. So we complain, try to make things better and try to be patient.
However in light of the almost constant reports of sexual harassment in the workplace one must ask the question about whether the lack of women at the top of these organizations contributed to the fear of speaking out on the part of the victims. Might they have felt more comfortable knowing that as the news travelled upwards within the organization it would eventually be heard by a women? This is not to say that all men would dismiss or minimize such a situation but some sufferers might erroneously believe this to be the case.
We are in the midst of a crisis. The number of women who have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention is astonishing. We may not be able to fully eradicate this in the short term but the fact of the matter is that communication is different between the sexes (remember Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus?) Women need to know that there are represented at the top of the organization and that their voices will be heard and the nuances of their situation understood. We have already demonstrated the business case for gender diversity in corporate leadership, we can no longer afford to wait.