In October 2017, the New York Times revealed that film producer Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades. The piece was followed by a thorough investigation in the New Yorker and, buoyed by the response to these stories, more people came forward with allegations against Weinstein and other high-profile men across the entertainment and media industries. These reports reveal an alarming culture of workplace violence against women, and it’s not exclusive to the entertainment world. Low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable, and harassment is pervasive in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries as well.
The reports of the past few months show the true depth of this issue, which impacts women working in a variety of fields. In December, for example, the Times reported on the persistent culture of harassment and abuse at two Ford auto plants, where two decades after the company tried to address sexual misconduct female employees are still subjected to abuse from their male coworkers. If this is truly a watershed moment for how society handles sexual misconduct, it must be inclusive. It’s critical that employers and gatekeepers across every industry understand the severity of this issue, and take time to address workplace harassment and violence, and the systems that allow it to persist.
As sexual harassment allegations continued to surface, we did our best to compile these stories and produce a series of pieces that would help you understand workplace violence against women within your own industries. Our first story focused on the similarities between harassment in Hollywood and the everyday workplace, breaking down 3 necessary steps to becoming a leader in employee protection. From there, our focus turned to presenting the breadth and commonality of workplace violence against women, from the entertainment industry to education. In doing this, it was especially necessary to give a voice to those who experience extreme forms of silencing - women of color and low-wage workers. We shared those blogs with you below in hopes that we can all learn and actively work to make our workplaces safer for all employees.
Hollywood Scandals Spark a Movement
It took many courageous women to come forward to start a national dialogue. The movement has just begun and women are riding it straight to the top.
“Violent and powerful men have taken so much away from women in entertainment over the years, but that has all begun to change. Hollywood’s efforts to prevent future incidents of sexual harassment are beginning to take shape – and you can thank women for that. While 2017 may represent the year women stood up together and challenged the system, 2018 is shaping up to be the year they finally take it back.”
Not All Survivors are Treated Equally
How your attempts to support survivors of sexual harassment and assault are excluding a lot of women, and why it's time we start listening to those silenced voices.
“Women of color and low-wage workers have been struggling to voice their own experiences with workplace violence for years without the public platform to be heard. Thankfully, the national conversation might finally be catching up to them… While it is crucial that we continue to support all survivors, even those who have not come forward with their story, we need to recognize the disparity in how we support white survivors versus survivors of color.
Protecting Our Educators
Focusing on student safety is a no-brainer, but are we paying close enough attention to the safety of our teachers? Educators are fighting a silent crisis and they need our help.
“Violence against teachers is a national crisis that cost teachers, parents, and taxpayers $2 billion annually. Violence against teachers is a significant yet under-investigated problem in the United States that has profound implications for schooling, teacher retention, and overall student performance. Teachers report feelings of anxiety and depression were related to lower professional functioning, decreased productiveness in the classroom, and lower emotional or physical well-being. As teachers become unable to perform in the classroom, student engagement and academic achievement are negatively affected.”
A true societal shift will require industry leaders to believe and protect women in every field, even beyond the high-profile world of entertainment. These efforts must include all women who work in hospitality or food service, educators, and politicians. The process for reporting an incident of sexual harassment or workplace violence has historically been intimidating, even ineffective. It doesn’t have to be. The wave of change is the brave women who came forward with these stories, and who continue to advocate for their peers. The events of the past year are an opportunity for every major industry to rethink workplace safety, and find solutions that will improve the work environment for women and other employees”.
In response to this climate shift, workplace leaders should take time to revisit their employee safety policy, including sexual harassment and misconduct policies and employee training. These incidents can represent a larger issue in which workplace violence often goes unaddressed, meaning appropriate action is crucial. The call to be more proactive about addressing sexual harassment and all manner of workplace violence are long overdue. Leaders in every field should prioritize new strategies for response and commit to greater protections for employees that ensure a safe workplace for everyone.