Over the past couple of months, the #MeToo movement has been gaining traction across the globe. It is meant to give women and men a chance to recognize and speak out against sexual harassment and assault – and also recognize the risk many women are taking by publicly coming forward to share their experiences. Time Magazine recently named the Silence Breakers, the women behind the #MeToo movement, as their Person of the Year. Hollywood, the United States Congress, large corporations who are starting to quantify the real cost of sexual harassment – the scale and profundity of the situation demands our attention.
I believe we are finally having the tough conversations that will make progress, not just add to the noise. We’ve seen it in our When Women Thrive research: real progress happens when you have alignment between personal/individual actions and organizational/structural interventions.
Policies and programs don’t work without largescale, personal commitment throughout the organization to persevere over time. I’m proud of the passion we have at our own organization as we see personal commitment to a diverse workforce and inclusive culture in MMC CEO Dan Glaser and Mercer CEO Julio A. Portalatin. And they’ve made it clear that hatred, discrimination and sexual misconduct have no home here.
The more we work closely with large, global organizations I believe this same individual and organizational alignment is fundamental to creating a thriving workplace and a future where no woman will have to risk everything just to come forward and say #MeToo.
Avoiding an Echo Chamber
I believe women already do a lot – we engage in the conversation, in proportionally larger numbers than men on social media. We counsel and coach each other and talk informally about boundaries and lines and aggressions big and small. But I worry we’re perpetuating an echo chamber and in fact may hamper the slow progress we’ve been making if men suddenly feel like it is too contentious to engage with us at all. Women are heavily engaged in the conversation, in meetings and social media. Where are the men? Men, we need you! At Mercer we’ve done a good job of engaging male colleagues and are working with colleagues and clients on engaging men through #MenMatter initiatives to drive culture change.
This isn’t just about men making a difference for the lives of women at work. Our research shows that a culture that empowers women and men in equal measure allows everyone to thrive – this isn’t about men or women, it is about men and women.
What are the action-oriented things you can do in your role to make a difference?
- Be courageous and have tough conversations. It’s ok to say you’re uncomfortable with the increased focus on men’s behavior at work, or that you don’t buy into the hype. Talk with colleagues male and female. Talk with your family, your friends. Whether you’re a man or a woman have the conversation.
- Educate yourself and know the facts. What constitutes appropriate behavior? There is a difference between harassment and discrimination. Understand legal and compliance, but also understand that behavior matters. If you’re a manager, male or female, make sure you know what’s going on in your team.
- If you see something, say something. Speak up if you witness misconduct. Speaking up takes different forms.
- Don’t blame and shame. Attacking the character or behavior of an accuser – whether someone you know personally or someone from the news – reinforces a culture that empowers predators and no one wins in that case. Leaders model behavior and so do peers.
- Start to break down gender norms in your own behavior. Part of this is about opening yourself up to modeling behavior that treats both men and women equally. Do you manage a team of men and women? Allow and encourage both men and women some flexibility for caregiving and parenting, for example.
Now more than ever, we need everyone engaged. Your families, colleagues, our businesses and the future of our civil society need you. Because #MeToo, while it recognizes specifically women who have been subject to sexual misconduct, harassment and assault, it hurts all of us. As humans.