If your over 50 and currently employed your nights are a bit restless. The world you knew changed a few months ago. Women are coming forward with memories that spanned decades. Their memories are clear and often detailed. So you wake up in a small panic, was I inappropriate? EVER?
The face of 66 year old Minnesota Senator Al Franken best represents a lot of baby boomers. Did I? Are there others? How do you defend a brush or a touch (not grab) that took place 30 years ago ?
As a manager, I can clearly remember two female employees telling me they did not want to be touched or hugged. I respected their wishes and there was no retaliation. Women rarely came forward in my years in management. Are there women out there who feel that I was inappropriate in the 90’s or 2000? and what it the appropriate response?
There were members of the Boys Club who abused their power. Everyone knew who they were and while you may not have been comfortable as they boasted about conquests you remained silent .
Throughout the years if a female staffer had a complaint you took it seriously. But that was before the fall of 2017.
The question for many is why now? If there was a problem in 2010 why wasn’t addressed in 2010.
It was sometime after the Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas hearings. I was given a directive. I was to personally spend the next few days speaking directly to employees about the company’s new sexual harassment policy. There were no real directions, just a box of brochures and business cards. This was the nineties, there were no smartphones or laptops.
My words brought confusion and concern. Uttering those words “Sexual Harassment” resulted in many red faces. What do you mean sexual? Is this from the union ? No. Should we contact the union? You can if you like. “If you ever feel uncomfortable for any reason by anyone you can call the number on the card 24 hours a day.
No one was quite sure what to do, one thing was clear, the company was serious. Locations had five days to respond to any complaint and to forward all complaints to headquarters. Failure to follow the new mandate would result in disciplinary action.
Before the mandate, there really wasn’t an official response to an individual who said he or she was being sexually harassed. Quite often she was told someone would keep an eye out for her. Yes, there were outdated guidelines from human resources but the truth was no one was was equipped to respond to questions of sexual harassment. It was my experience the victim wasn’t taken seriously.
It has been a Boys club since the beginning of time. The club had long resisted female members. Once you became a member you quickly learned when to speak in the meeting and when to simply go along.
While you have never been inappropriate with a female, you know managers and professional who were. In fact all the managers knew who the perpetrators were as many boasted about their actions. As a member you may have participated in the banter as your male colleges have made comments about women who work for the company, you have laughed in the presence of female managers who seemed okay with the shenanigans, boys being boys.
A common question is why didn’t women speak up. Why now?
I was a black man wanting to move up. I don’t speak for all black men or women. When you a minority or a women the dance is very delicate as you move up the ladder. Most clubs are filled with white men, with an occasional minority or woman. If your objective is an office upstairs, you played the game. You smiled when the boss or the majority of the room is being inappropriate. Objecting could result in a delay in your ascension or halt it all together.
At a business dinner to honor our clients. My boss loudly announced they were serving watermelon and which should make me happy! Many of my colleagues and clients were embarrassed. Inside I was hurt and embarrassed, outside I was professional,”oh that guy”
I could have complained , could have sued the company, there were more than one hundred witnesses. But it would have ended my career. From that moment on, I would have been branded. Nice guy, but! Didn’t he sue? Didn’t he file a complaint? I’ve been in those meetings,so I knew what the consequences were.
Women know this all too well. They are outnumbered in the Boys clubs. So when one of the boys comments on the tits on the new girl in the mail room, they may smile uncomfortably or look away.
The abuse of power in the Boys Club is well known. Abuse comes in many forms, it is fueled by power. From the fast food manager asking for sexual favors in exchange for hours. To department heads who s access to slush funds to pay for and elected members of our government who have made it very difficult for someone to complain.
The abuse by some of the members of the Boys Club was tolerated if the member was generating income for the organization. Beginning with the 100+millions in payouts from the Fox News Corporation followed by the Weinstein scandal the stakeholders /shareholders declared there weren’t any sacred cows. NBC’s Matt Lauer was being fired today.
Some members of the Boys Club are in shock. The abuse of power is so deeply ingrained in the culture. After Donald Trump infamous Access America tape was released. some of his supporters dismissed it as being simply locker room talk. His son, Eric, said it’s just what happens when men hang out together. Its simply, Boys being Boys.
There are many men who believe while these actions against women were wrong. They view the punishment to severe.
The Mee too movement is a beginning, however real change will not take place until the Boys Clubs becomes the Boys and Girls Club. The institution has to change.
There needs to be more than just one or two women setting policy. One or two women in a sea of men. This change needs to take place today. The irons are hot!