Today I read an article by Dr. Siva Vaidyanathan, Professor at the University of Virginia who hit the nail on the head for women in the workplace.
He very succinctly acknowledged women are knocked out of fair competition in the workplace by men who sexually harass them. Think about it – we do it all the time in business – we try to get a leg up on our competitors in the marketplace. Well, what’s different in the labor market? Nothing!
After 15+ years in the corporate world, I finally had to leave. I was beaten and broken by the various people I tried to compete with for promotions, projects, visibility, and the list goes on. It took me more than two years to get back my self-confidence. Unfortunately, I discovered quite the same occurred in the startup world in Silicon Valley. The tactics varied, but the result was the same. It was difficult for me to build the network that’s so key for an entrepreneur to succeed.
Today, the pages of any social media platform are filled with accounts of women who have come forward to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment. It has begun to reach the point where everyone, men and women, are starting to see just how pervasive the workplace is with behaviors ranging from the micro cuts that really sap your confidence as a woman, to blatant sexual harassment, even rape.
Where do we go from here and how can we things change for the better?
I think President Trump has stirred up the dirt that has been hiding so much of this dysfunctional behavior and women are finally starting to recognize they need to engage in different ways. They are beginning to consider running for political office, talking frankly with people close to them about their experiences and stepping up when someone acts inappropriately towards another woman. Men are beginning to recognize their complicity in their lack of understanding.
Kudos to all who are beginning to ask questions of themselves. Do I need to learn more about what my sister’s experiences in the workplace? How can I support women I work with? What behaviors do I engage in that are marginal or unacceptable? These are the kind of questions we all need to be asking regardless of our gender.
It is by earnestly asking ourselves questions like these that we will all begin to move forward from this place of lose-lose and build the transition to win-win.