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“The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the human race. “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” – Susan B. Anthony
1. Sexual Harassment is Alive and Well
Mayor Bob Filner’s scandal reminds us that sexual harassment is not an issue we’ve overcome. Sexual harassment affects Women and men in all industries, levels, even the C-Suite or the Oval Office. Sexual harassment and its precursors are not always physical acts. According to a recent survey by Executive Magazine: approximately 80% of men admit they often day dream about having sex with a female coworker. Daydreaming about a female coworker may SOUND harmless, but it means every time a woman stands to the front of the board room to pitch a riveting idea, her male boss or colleagues could be imagining what she would look like with her blouse on the floor.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission there were 11, 364 matters filed and resolved under Title VII where sexual harassment discrimination was an issue. This is just the number of cases filed and closed. Meaning there are still thousands of victims who have yet to have their cases decided.
Sexual harassment is so prevalent I’m afraid we may be becoming desensitized. It is the personal invasion of someone’s space, body, mind, and safety. It is a direct violation of another individual’s personal rights. Sometimes the media makes it seem like a tush grab by the CEO is something “normal” or even “comedic”. (I can’t help but think of Carrie Bradshaw’s boss at Vogue removing his pants in the workplace, “because he thought she was interested.”).
2. A safe working environment is invaluable
My previous employer was a large corporation with over 5,000 employees. I was a member of the training department, a face of the Human Resource Department. I often had employees come to me seeking redress for a hostile work environment, discriminatory boss, or sexual advances from colleagues etc. Our harassment claims process was so muddled and unclear I often didn’t know where to refer our employees.
On many occasions, I had employees tell me they went to H.R. in the hopes of discretion but their bosses were immediately notified, making their already humiliating experience even worse. Now this occurred at a large organization with employees dispersed around the country.
Such an organization has the skills and money to properly train its employees and managers about identifying and correcting sexual harassment in the workplace. So, if it happens in a large organization, just think what happens in a smaller organization with fewer resources? A hostile work environment isn’t strictly the “guarantee” my colleagues won’t shove me in the locker room (coinciding with the idea that the workplace is a giant High School with elevators); it also has mental and emotional aspects that seriously affect well-being, not to mention productivity. Although policies and procedures often exist to protect employees from sexual harassment, it doesn’t mean that employees will feel safe to come forward. There remains the very real threat of retaliation.
For example, even Laura Fink, Bob Filner’s courageous victim, a successful and respected political consultant, was afraid to protect herself because she feared retaliation and adverse repercussions. “Bob Filner has a reputation with regard to people he sees as political enemies, he has a reputation for swift retribution and really long grudges, and I didn’t want to be on the wrong end of that.” (Kopan. T, http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/bob-filner-harassment-accusations-94658.html?hp=r3, July 24, 2013).
3. Our government isn’t as progressive as it would like us to believe
According to the riveting documentary Miss Representation, “Women account for 51% of U.S. population, yet women only make up 18.3% of Congress; account for 20 of the 100 seats in the Senate. To date there have only been 34 female governors compared to 2, 319 men. 67 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers, the United States not being one of them. The U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislature, that doesn’t sound like progress to me. We pride ourselves on being the leaders of democracy and fair chance, yet we fail to model a balance that even Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iran have been able to achieve. As Gloria Steinem urges, “no wonder our country is in such trouble, we have been choosing our national leadership from 6 % of the country: Male, white, European (until 2008), married, heterosexual, over 35, college educated, professional degree.”
Female politicians are often trivialized. Commentators focus on their weight loss and haircuts as opposed to their foreign policy and tax initiatives. The more varied a person’s life experience and relationships, the more the greater that person’s ability to understand other’s experiences and viewpoints, allowing them to better analyze the soundness of their decisions and the impact those decisions will have on people who don’t look like them.
4. Sexual Harassment is more about Power than it is about Sex
Powerful, high-profile men like, Bob Filner, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, don’t have difficulty attracting women. Some of the world’s most powerful and unattractive men have flocks of women around them, vying for their attention, affection, and money. Bob Filner could have had his share of mistresses yet he chose to attack his colleagues. Why? Could it be he’s threatened by the rising power of women? Is this his way of showing “who’s on top?” Bob Filner, or shall we call him, Bob Fil[th]ner, has opened the flood gates with his foul play, creating a space for questioning and dialogue.
This blog isn’t meant to bash men and sanctify women; it is meant to bring the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront. This is not an issue of the past, it unfortunately a modern issue impacting our workplaces, government, and, tragically, our nation’s decision-makers.
It is also a great reminder why we need places like Hera Hub… a nurturing, collaborative workspace… where women can be assured that they are safe.
Felena is a long-time entrepreneur and marketing maven. Her latest venture, Hera Hub, is a spa-inspired shared workspace for female entrepreneurs. This as-needed, flexible work and meeting space provides a productive environment for women who primarily work from home. Hera Hub members have access to a professional space to meet with clients and to connect and collaborate with like-minded business owners, thus giving them the support they need to be prosperous. Cost-effective monthly membership options are suited for freelancers, independent consultants, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and authors.
Hera Hub is much more than just a shared workspace; it’s a community of like-minded entrepreneurial women who find the additional resources, such as special classes, workshops, and one-on-one support essential for their business growth. The first San Diego location is conveniently located in Sorrento Valley. By the end of 2012 Hera Hub will have additional locations in Mission Valley & Carlsbad.
Felena is passionate about education, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of San Diego and her MBA from California State University Dominguez Hills. She taught Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and at California State University Dominguez Hills for the MBA online program for eight years. Felena was most recently rewarded for community efforts, as she was awarded the “Women Business Owner of the Year Award” by the local chapter of the National Organization of Women Business Owners.