The recently denied accusation against actress Asia Argento, an outspoken #MeToo proponent, of sexual assault by a minor male, once again calls into question the credibility of women who come forward or the women who are accused of harassment, assault and wrongdoing.
Why does there continue to be a double standard for credibility?
Most importantly, it is urgent in workplaces and throughout the culture to have viable and effective systems and policies in place to diminish the implicit bias of “he said, she said” debates that cast doubt primarily on women.
The courage for anyone of any gender to tell the truth about a male or female abuser was and is the point of the #MeToo movement, as created by Tarana Burke in 2006.The courage for anyone of any gender to tell the truth about a male or female abuser was and is the point of the #MeToo movement, as created by @TaranaBurke in 2006. Click To Tweet
According to the Indianapolis Star, Burke, now senior director of programs at Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, said “the seed of the movement was born in 1997 as she listened to a 13-year-old girl recount her experience of sexual abuse. Nearly 10 years later, Burke founded an organization called Just Be Inc. and assigned the ‘Me Too’ name to the movement.”
As a result of the augmented influence of #MeToo and #TimesUp over the past year, calls of harassment erupted across all industries—some reaching back many decades from men and women. Predominantly, the statements have been from women about men.
“In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only records the gender of the accusers, not the gender of the alleged perpetrators. Of the 6,696 sexual harassment allegations filed last year, the EEOC reported that just 16.5 percent were filed by men, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged over the last decade. Given that most alleged offenders are men, it’s not unreasonable to assume that most sexual harassment against men was also carried out by other men,” writes Quentine Fottrell in Market Watch.
“However, women service members said 94 percent of their alleged offenders were male, according to a Department of Defense report released last year. Men said 57 percent of their alleged offenders were male, 25 percent were female, and 12 percent of men said their alleged offenders were a mix of men and women,” Fottrell writes.
She continues, “Jennifer Drobac, a professor of law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, says the percentages of women perpetrators in the wider population are likely far lower than that.”
“It’s often because they don’t have the power,” Drobac tells Fottrell. “It would make sense that in the hierarchical Defense Department some women may have power and abuse that power.”
“It’s time for power to promote equality in leadership, not dominance,” says Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead.
The paradigm of power and the shift from a concentration on the historic “power over” something or someone to a “power to” accomplish and enact change is a central focus of programs, online courses and offerings of Take The Lead.
“While you may have great credentials, strategy and intention are often far more important than anything else,” says Feldt, author of the bestselling book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. “At Take the Lead, we want you to shift from being an operator trying to climb the ladder to a game changing, boundary breaker.”
Other experts agree.
“We have a system where people in power take advantage of those who are vulnerable,” Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist at the American Psychological Association and expert on sexual harassment and sexual violence, told Meera Jagannathan at Moneyish. “Anybody in a position of power can be corrupted by it.”
Perhaps this is why accounts of harassment are continuously in the news.
“Uber has seen the firing of at least 20 employees over sexual harassment allegations and the departure of its CEO. The details of the $10 million settlement have not yet received final approval from a federal judge — a session scheduled for Nov. 6. The deal was announced in March and granted preliminary approval by a judge in April, according to a court filing from the settlement administrator,” according to NPR
“Fifty-six people are set to receive an average payout of nearly $34,000 because they filed specific claims of ‘incidents of discrimination, harassment, and/or hostile work environment and connecting their experiences to their race, national origin or gender,’ court documents state,” NPR reports.
“Months before the investigation concluded, a former Uber engineer named Susan Fowler published a blog post saying her new manager had propositioned her for sex the day she joined his team,” NPR reports. “When she went to report the situation to human resources, she says she was told that ‘they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to.’”
These incidents are top of mind for workers and employers. According to Forbes, “A Pew Research Center Survey conducted in early 2018 found that 51 percent of Americans believe that the increased focus on sexual harassment ‘has made it harder for men to know how to interact with women in the workplace.’”
Beyond the truth telling and exposes of illegal and harmful behavior, policies need to be in place to change the system and the behaviors. And training needs to be in place to address the pushback and retribution many face for whistleblowing.Beyond the truth telling and exposes of illegal and harmful behavior, policies need to be in place to #ChangeTheSystem and the behaviors of sexual harassment. #MeToo Click To Tweet
Mirande Valbrune, an employment lawyer and author of #MeToo: A Practical Guide, writes in Forbes, “Policies and training should be updated to include more focus on gender identity and sexual orientation, and emphasizing gender neutrality regarding who may experience sexual harassment.”
Valbrune adds, “Strategic and progressive training should be designed with an emphasis on “bystander empowerment” to intervene, as this has proven an effective deterrent. Training on the lines of communication for reporting incidents and how to respond in the moment and afterward will be key to addressing the large number of harassment complaints that go unreported to internal sources.”
According to a recent survey by Boardlist, and Qualtrics, “only 43 per cent of American board members had discussed sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace,” Jared Lindzon writes in The Globe and Mail. That is compared to 63 percent of Canadian board members.
“I personally think the discrepancy in numbers between the two countries just reflects the two different philosophies,” Shannon Gordon, CEO of Boardlist, tells Linzon. “If in America we are really wedded to the idea that anyone can be anything and it is all about personal responsibility, leadership is going to be less likely to accept the notion that these obstacles or biases exist, thereby making the conversation less likely to happen.”Changes need to occur to address the problem of #sexualharassment at work including training in unconscious bias, commitment from top leadership and rapid response, @pgourguechon writes in @Forbes. Click To Tweet
Prudy Gourguechon, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, writes in Forbes that a number of changes need to occur to address the problem of sexual harassment at work. She suggests:
- Multiple overlapping structures and programs, creating a growing cultural awareness of the issues.
- Training in unconscious bias.
- Structural and procedural changes designed to reduce the chance for bias to operate.
- Commitment to mentoring and sponsorship.
- Rapid response to evolving cultural phenomenon, such as the #MeToo backlash.
- Commitment from top leadership.
Jennifer Wright writes in Bazaar, “Women used to worry that if they told their stories they would not be heard, or believed. Now, we face a more terrifying truth: women’s stories might be heard. They might be believed. And it might simply not result in any consequences, because society simply does not care what happens to women.”
Wright adds, “If we accept that, then we’ll be in a worse place than we ever were before.”