A moral renewal has swept the United States like never before, a reckoning of esteemed men’s sexual misconduct across media platforms. Shock, denial, anger, disappointment, and sadness, emotions akin to grief, have settled like a cloud, dampening the holiday spirit. The latest fallen, Matt Lauer, one of NBC Network’s most powerful men, has left viewers wondering how a man would allow sexual transgressions with far-reaching ramifications to blemish a brilliant career. Matt Lauer has joined an ignominious group of influential men that encompasses not only Hollywood but also other industries.
- Matt Lauer (NBC Television Host)
- John Conyers (Congressman)
- John Lasseter (Head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animations)
- Charlie Rose (CBS Television Host)
- Steve Jurvetson (Venture Capitalist and board of Tesla and SpaceX)
- Glen Thrush (Reporter at New York Times)
- Al Franken (U.S. Senator)
- Roy Moore (Alabama Judge)
- Kevin Spacey (Actor)
- Harvey Weinstein (Producer and Co-founder of Weinstein Company)
- Bill O’Reilly (Television Host)
- Bill Cosby (Actor)
- President Trump and the list goes on.
Mr. Lauer’s fall from grace is a death of sorts for coworkers, family, friends, and fans, who’ve respected him for years. However, and rightly so, this moral awakening is a courageous beginning for victims. We should be cheering brave women who have spoken out about their offenders, as well as punishing the abuser for misconduct. It’s a day of reckoning for victims who have felt powerless and endured toxic, silent cultures. Sexually harassed women often feel alone in their plight and seldom come forward because of fear and shame.
- Fear of Consequences: (blackballed from industry, stigmatized as a troublemaker, losing their jobs, pay raises, and promotions, and fear of physical retaliation)
- Shame: Humiliation from physical violation, self-blaming or believing they were partly to blame
In a toxic workplace, sexually harassed people often choose to endure inappropriate behavior and ignore their offenders rather than report them, no matter how severe the situation. So what’s empowering women to come forward now? The answer is simple. There’s power in numbers. Seeing a woman come forward and tell her story, embolden others to do the same.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
There is no concrete definition of sexual harassment. What’s offensive to one person may not be for another. Perceptions and standards of abuse vary, which makes identifying sexual harassment difficult. Although a person’s intentions may not be to offend, the receiving party may interpret the behavior or action differently. Sexual harassment can be mental and physical and takes shape in many forms.
- Any inappropriate physical contact (unwanted touching, kissing, groping)
- Lewd or obscene comments or gestures (vulgar exposure of body)
- Lewd phone calls and inappropriate text messages (sexting)
- Sexual jokes
- Sexual bribery, coercion, and overt sex requests
- Sexual favoritism (receiving benefits for sexual favors)
- Denial for a promotion or pay raises because of refusal to comply with sexual demands
- Rape or sexual assault
- Assault while drugged or incapable of defending oneself
Corporate America’s Policies and Procedures
The current environment is triggering a reassessment of sexual harassment policies and procedures within Corporate America. Management should have an ongoing conversation with employees about what actions constitute sexual harassment. Corporate policies and procedures should be visible (Intranet, manuals) with well-defined processes for reporting sexual misconduct that ensure accusers aren’t berated, ostracized, or ignored.
Employees need a climate that guarantees confidentiality, support, and assurances their jobs are secure when reporting sexually offensive behavior. Constant training on policies and procedures, ongoing dialogue between managers and employees about attitudes and perceptions must happen to foster a culture of trust.
For more interesting reading on Hollywood’s male conduct see: