The problem wasn’t just your grandmother’s problem…or your mother’s. It’s not a thing of the past. It’s not dead.
Glance at the cover page of any news outlet and you won’t be scrolling long until you see another story on this problem still alive and slapping us in the face…or on the rear.
In truth, there are many: abuse of power, sexual predation, bullying, and conspiracy. But in light of our ongoing discussion on the disparity of women leaders in the workplace, it strikes me that the imbalance of gender equality may have helped push this problem to epidemic proportions.
And who’s at fault?
Here’s the usual progression of thought. Initially, we pass all our dispersions on the Weinsteins, O’Reillys, Beshs, Richardsons, and Trumps (lets not forget his “grab ‘em by the p—y” speech) we encounter in the workplace. Then, we look to the surrounding cast of collaborators — the ones who did nothing to halt the power-hungry predators, and, in some cases, did everything they could to assist in the coverups. And eventually, we scrutinize the accusers — you know, the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who claim to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Surely, they must have brought this on themselves somehow.
But, with sincere respect to the survivors, what if it’s all of the above…including you and me?
Stay with me. I acknowledge that most of us don’t ask our coworkers or clients to get naked with us on the job. And many of us have never even been accomplices to the crime. But still, have we grown too numb? Have the sirens become nothing more than background noise — no longer alarming us to not only gross misconduct but also a dire need for equal opportunity in the workplace?
Have we grown too accepting in always seeing a man at the helm, while keeping the lady perpetually in waiting? And in our comfort, have we lost a sense of the message we’re sending to the next generation about what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s missing?
Seeing the recent string of allegations seems to beg the question: How might things have transpired if the aforementioned lineup of offenders reported to a female superior? It’s hard to imagine they would have been permitted to bully, terrorize, and assault those around them. Just like it’s hard to imagine that adding more women to our boardrooms wouldn’t go a long way toward assuaging the epidemic we’re facing today.
. . .
So, when the next prolific perpetrator gets accused, maybe we can all first stop, breathe it in, and acknowledge our feelings. Release our arms of judgment and open our hands of personal acceptance: How are we a part of this great disparity, what’s our role in reducing the gap, and how can we best teach our sons and daughters to help us in being a part of this change?