When the #MeToo movement began a year ago, I was among the women that breathed in relief.
There were many reasons, all personal and similar to what has been put forth: WE are women trying to be the best versions on ourselves in a man’s world and now finally, the world can acknowledge what we put up with on a daily basis.
I did go into this with tempered optimism. I had, after all, worked in a male dominated industry for my entire career and hoped that men would behave better - especially, those with daughters, sister, wives. They had not. I do harbor a fair amount anger and resentment towards unscrupulous men. I also harbor resentment and frustration towards those women that are leveraging the imbalance to harass and mistreat other women, and men. All women are not innocent, and all men are not guilty.
Throughout my career, I have also thoroughly enjoyed working with men. I have been supported and respected by men. I am keenly aware that there are many, many men who support women and want things to change, so their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers can be safe and comfortable at work. These men enjoy working alongside strong women and are inspired when challenged to positively up their game. These men also feel sick to their stomachs when they hear and observe inappropriate behaviors. These men also keep quiet, just like we do, because their careers are on the line if they dare to speak up.
I tirelessly support and fuel the movement for equality in the workplace. But once again, the tempered optimism is back. This time directed at the women leading these movements. In their quest for “equality” they are creating “inequality”. In a way that discounts every one of our stories of harassment.
In every feminine, there is a masculine. And in every masculine, there is feminine.
These movements are not change. They repeat the same patterns of exclusivity that empowered the male dominated workplace in the first place. Movements that are funded by the very men that benefit from the culture of inequality. Are these men funding because they are willing to adapt and behave better, or is it because they see a profit? Are they supporting these movements because they truly believe in empowering women, and creating equality and balance? Or are they investing because they see money at the end of it, regardless of what and how it happens?
Is this the best we can do? I think not.
The movement for equality requires inclusiveness. We, ladies, can accept and include the support, voice and strength of these men. We can offer an open, unbiased invitation to any man that wants to behave better. We can remain neutral and unshaken when the old guard stubbornly refuses to change - change is scary, after all.
The movement also requires that organizations and companies invest in their people by actually embodying a culture of equality and balance. A culture where all employees feel safe to speak up without fear of embarrassment or punishment. A culture where all employees feel a sense of purpose in their daily work life - they are confident that their contributions are positively impacting the greater good.
The keys to this kind of organizational culture are firmly in the hands of C-Suite management. They have an enormous amount of power to inspire a movement of change throughout their organizations. It is time for senior management to courageously step forward and recognize that they need to change and be open to learning how to behave better. Only when employees start seeing their senior management walk the walk and talk the talk, will they feel safe to incorporate equality and balance in their daily work life.
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