Ame­ri­can bu­si­ness and #Me­Too

Un an après #Me­Too, quels chan­ge­ments aux États-Unis ?

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire -

En oc­tobre 2017, le puis­sant pro­duc­teur amé­ri­cain Har­vey Wein­stein était ac­cu­sé d’agres­sions sexuelles par des di­zaines de femmes, dont de très cé­lèbres ac­trices. Le ha­sh­tag #Me­Too a alors fleu­ri sur les ré­seaux so­ciaux, in­vi­tant les vic­times de har­cè­le­ment sexuel à té­moi­gner pu­bli­que­ment. C’était le dé­but d’un mou­ve­ment fé­mi­niste qui s’est très vite glo­ba­li­sé. Un an plus tard, comment #Me­Too a-t-il im­pac­té la culture de l’en­tre­prise aux États-Unis ?

It is al­most a year since re­ve­la­tions emer­ged about the be­ha­viour of Har­vey Wein­stein, a film-stu­dio boss char­ged with mul­tiple counts of rape and sexual as­sault. In res­ponse Alys­sa Mi­la­no, an ac­tor, in­vi­ted anyone who had been ha­ras­sed or as­saul­ted to tweet #Me­Too. The ha­sh­tag has since been sha­red over 15m times. Vic­tims of ha­rass­ment in work­places of all sorts, from S&P 500 com­pa­nies to small-and me­dium-si­zed firms to star­tups, have come for­ward in un­pre­ce­den­ted num­bers to share their har­ro­wing ex­pe­riences.

2. Ma­ny po­wer­ful men have been for­ced out. [In Sep­tem­ber], one of the most-prai­sed bosses in me­dia, Les Moonves, the chief exe­cu­tive of CBS, was for­ced to leave fol­lo­wing ac­cu­sa­tions of sexual ha­rass­ment (which he de­nies). A hand­ful, in­clu­ding Mr Wein­stein, await trial.

GRO­WING PRES­SURE

3. Firms are un­der gro­wing pres­sure to change how wo­men are trea­ted at work. Not a week goes by wi­thout a fresh example of an or­ga­ni­sa­tion fin­ding it­self in the spot­light. [In Sep­tem­ber], wor­kers at McDonald’s, one of se­ve­ral firms being sued by wor­kers, pro­tes­ted against a culture of ha­rass­ment, re­pla­cing the “M” on their Me­Too ban­ners with the gol­den arches. In the same week the board of the New York Re­view of Books, un­der pres­sure from ad­ver­ti­sers, pu­shed out its edi­tor, Ian Bu­ru­ma, af­ter he pu­bli­shed a contro­ver­sial es­say by Jian Gho­me­shi, a Ca­na­dian broad­cas­ter and al­le­ged abu­ser.

4. Some people wor­ry that the mo­ve­ment has gone too far, war­ning of a “witch hunt”, “trial by Twit­ter,” and the end of in­no­cent of­fice ro­mance. Others fret about a ba­ck­lash for wo­men at work, where se­nior male exe­cu­tives may no lon­ger want to men­tor them or tra­vel or dine with them alone.

5. Some res­ponses have felt knee-jerk: Net­flix, a me­dia com­pa­ny, was mo­cked when in trai­ning it re­por­ted­ly sug­ges­ted a rule against people ga­zing in­to each other’s eyes for more than five se­conds on film sets. Yet the oc­ca­sio­nal over­reac­tion may be part of the mes­sy pro­cess of chan­ging norms across so­cie­ty, bu­si­ness and po­li­tics. Al­though the ma­jo­ri­ty of those over 65 say it has be­come har­der for men to in­ter­act pro­fes­sio­nal­ly with wo­men in the wake of Me­Too, a mi­no­ri­ty of those un­der 30 say the same.

IN COURT

6. It is true that some no­to­rious sexual pre­da­tors are now fa­cing jus­tice; Mr Wein­stein’s next court ap­pea­rance is in No­vem­ber. But most of those ac­cu­sed of ha­rass­ment or as­sault have fa­ced the court of pu­blic opi­nion, not the law it­self. In Ame­ri­ca the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­ni­ty Com­mis­sion, a fe­de­ral agen­cy, has no­ted in pre­li­mi­na­ry fin­dings just a mo­dest, 3% up­tick in sexual-ha­rass­ment com­plaints fi­led by em­ployees this year. This is in part be­cause few vic­tims re­port abuse, let alone press charges. Those who do ra­re­ly ma­nage to get their com­plaints heard in court. In Ame­ri­ca the Time’s Up mo­ve­ment set up a $21m le­gal-de­fence fund to try to change this. Since Ja­nua­ry it has had 3,500 ap­pli­ca­tions, two­thirds of them from low-in­come wor­kers.

7. Ma­ny Ame­ri­can states are re­vie­wing their laws. Wa­shing­ton now bars em­ployers from man­da­to­ry non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments for em­ployees, which stop wor­kers from spea­king out pu­bli­cly about their ex­pe­riences. Se­ve­ral are exploring ex­ten­ding or en­ding sta­tutes of li­mi­ta­tions, spur­red on by re­ve­la­tions of child abuse in the Ca­tho­lic church in Ame­ri­ca.

AC­TIONS FROM THE EM­PLOYERS

8. What the law can do is in any case on­ly part of the pic­ture. Ma­ny, if not most, of the ac­counts of ha­rass­ment that have emer­ged in the past year point less to a fai­lure of law­ma­kers than to one on the part of em­ployers. Big com­pa­nies in Ame­ri­ca are keen to be seen to “do so­me­thing”: the num­ber of pu­blic de­cla­ra­tions about ze­ro to­le­rance of ha­rass­ment has gone up. Yet whe­ther or not their ac­tions are mea­ning­ful, or whe­ther they are still dod­ging dee­per pro­blems around po­wer im­ba­lances in the work­place, is ve­ry much in ques­tion.

9. Cus­to­mers, in­ves­tors, boards, em­ployees, stock ana­lysts and even in­su­rers in­crea­sin­gly ask for in­for­ma­tion on what a com­pa­ny does for wo­men, in­clu­ding the pro­tec­tion it af­fords against ha­rass­ment. Equi­leap, which ranks firms on gen­der-equa­li­ty cri­te­ria, now in­cludes sexual­ha­rass­ment po­li­cies. It is seeing strong de­mand for such da­ta. That is part­ly be­cause the head­line costs of a scan­dal are clear: shares of se­ve­ral big firms have fal­len shar­ply af­ter exe­cu­tive de­par­tures. But less ob­vious costs, such as to pro­duc­ti­vi­ty, tur­no­ver and re­pu­ta­tion, are al­so be­co­ming har­der to ignore.

10. Even so, few firms want to talk pu­bli­cly about what they are doing in­side the or­ga­ni­sa­tion. Those that do of­ten have re­pu­ta­tions so­re­ly in need of bur­ni­shing. Uber, a ride-hai­ling firm, re­pla­ced much of its top ma­na­ge­ment and claims to have prio­ri­ti­sed culture and sa­fe­ty. The Old Vic, a Lon­don theatre tain­ted by a scan­dal in­volv- ing Ke­vin Spa­cey, its for­mer di­rec­tor, will next week an­nounce a “Guar­dians net­work” to bet­ter pro­tect wor­kers in the per­for­ming arts.

11. Less vi­si­bly, se­ve­ral em­ployers have made ef­forts to improve in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures for re­por­ting ha­rass­ment. In­de­pendent, ano­ny­mous hel­plines over­come conflicts of in­ter­est and se­ve­ral re­port gro­wing de­mand. But ma­ny other firms ap­pear to be shir­king the task. Less than a third of Ame­ri­cans sur­veyed in May said that their em­ployer had done any­thing new to deal with sexual ha­rass­ment fol­lo­wing #Me­Too, ac­cor­ding to the Ame­ri­can Psy­cho­lo­gi­cal As­so­cia­tion (APA).

Big com­pa­nies in Ame­ri­ca are keen to be seen to “do so­me­thing.”

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