The more I read about the #metoo movement and the culture of harassment and assault that exists in our workplaces and schools, the more upset I become. I worry about graduating and joining the working world, because I know that workplaces all over the country have problems with misconduct. But I also want to make a difference and combat the problem. What can we–and I, specifically–do to change the culture and build a better workplace for women and others who have dealt with harassment?
There’s no question about it: we have problems in our workplace. Studies show that at least a quarter of working women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. And that figure likely understates the reality, because victims of sexual harassment and assault tend to be reluctant to come forward. Why? Aside from the stigma and stress of taking such an action, there are unfortunate real-world consequences to consider: studies indicate that 75% of women who come forward to report sexual harassment experience some form of retaliation in their workplace. Standing up for yourself, it seems, is bad for your career when you’re a woman who has been harassed.
These are disturbing figures, to say the least. But there is another side to this story, and that is the role that dedicated people are playing in making the workplace a better place. The #metoo movement has, of course, played a huge role in that. So has public pressure from concerned groups outside the workplace, which has made business difficult for companies that attract poor press due to their toxic workplaces–providing a financial incentive for companies like Uber to make serious changes.
And then there are those working from the inside, including many of those #metoo activists. Human resources departments are shaping up, outside training and management groups are taking a stronger role in fielding sexual harassment complaints, and companies are finding their consciences–albeit slowly, and with the help of new information and new financial incentives courtesy of the growing political movements surrounding this issue.
So how can you make a difference? In any number of ways. You could head into the workplace and help continue the positive changes in our working culture, perhaps within a human resources department. You could go into law and help victims fight back against companies and individuals who cross the line. You could work for a nonprofit or become an activist, pressuring companies and politicians to do the right thing. Or you could go into politics and help work on policy questions that could affect the future of the #metoo movement.
You don’t have to dedicate your life to solving this problem to be of help, either. Visibility and support are key parts of the #metoo movement, and it’s easy to take a small role in the change by simply believing and amplifying the voices of the women in it. What you choose to do is up to you, but please know that our workplaces–while flawed–are moving in the right direction thanks to the bravery and activism of people like you.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made…It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg