It has become a movement! We are hearing more and more women speaking out about sexual harassment. This genie is not going back into the bottle! I’m feeling excited that Generation X and Millennial women are leading the way, feeling empowered to stand up and speak out against this full blown epidemic.
Sexual harassment has always existed, but the light has never been shined so brightly on this hugely prevalent issue until now. The “me too” hashtag exploded on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with 12 million “me too” Facebook posts in 24 hours. Women have come forward in droves to tell their stories. Time Magazine just named “The Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year for 2017. The magazine’s editor said in an interview “the #MeToo movement represents the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women, and some men too”.
Young people today talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. This is a conversation they want to have. Older generations tended not to talk about it, many for fear of losing their jobs (a fear that still exists). With more than half of American women having experienced sexual harassment at some point in there lives according to a recent poll Fortune Magazine – ABC News-Washington Post poll, most women I know have a story to recount (usually in private). I entered the corporate workplace in the eighties, less than ten years after the term “sexual harassment “was coined by a group of women at Cornell University. I was fortunate to work for a company with women in positions of power and a pretty strong intolerance for sexual harassment, but I can obviously only speak for myself when I say I felt safe in my work environment. However my employer could not protect me from the attitudes and behavior of the people I needed to interact with outside the walls of our company to do my job. I was a frequent business traveler, and recall how few women there were “on the road” back then. I was always careful and conscious of the fact that I was vulnerable as a female traveling alone to strange and sometimes isolated locations. I was almost a victim more times than I can count. There was also the occasional male business client who would say or do inappropriate things. Back then, women were supposed to be happy to have a seat at the table. We tended to keep quiet or ignore inappropriate behavior. We focused on doing our jobs well, and hoped that was enough to get that next promotion. We were often silent when we should have spoken up.
Most large companies have policies on sexual harassment, and many have anti-sexual harassment training programs, but we clearly have a long way to go to help women feel safe in their work environment.
As Gen X’ers and Millennials continue to gain positions of power in the workplace, I have a feeling change is going to come, and soon! And that’s good news for Gen Z and future generations when it’s their turn to navigate their way in the workplace.
Join the conversation. Share your thoughts on the movement, personal stories, or whatever you want to discuss with other generations.