SUBHA SPEAKS OUT

If you’re not help­ing solve the prob­lem, you’re part of it.

Working Mother - - Work Forus -

Here’s what ex­ecs should do to stop sex­ual ha­rass­ment on the job.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did! I’m talk­ing about sex­ual bul­ly­ing, in­nu­en­dos, ha­rass­ment and as­saults in the work­place. We can be de­luded into think­ing this is a re­cent pat­tern. It is not. We can con­sider Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Har­vey We­in­stein, Char­lie Rose and Matt Lauer. But this is not merely an en­ter­tain­ment-/me­di­ain­dus­try is­sue. This is rel­e­vant wher­ever a power dy­namic is in play, where a male-dom­i­nated cul­ture can be a sense of im­mu­nity from be­ing found out—or be­lieved if called out.

As women, we’ve known that child­bear­ing and child-rear­ing can de­rail our am­bi­tions and ca­reers. We’ve also un­der­stood the neg­a­tive im­pact of not get­ting male ally­ship in early and mid­ca­reer. Sex­ual ha­rass­ment, while widely ex­pe­ri­enced, has been kept un­der­cover; the iso­la­tion of women’s ex­pe­ri­ences—and their un­will­ing­ness or in­abil­ity to speak openly about them—kept this third rail from be­ing ex­posed. We must not over­look the courage re­quired for women to speak out: fear of job loss, be­ing de­nied ad­vance­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, be­ing at­tacked pro­fes­sion­ally or phys­i­cally. With the #metoo cam­paign, the sheer vol­ume of women speak­ing out about their ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing sex­u­ally bul­lied by male col­leagues and pow­er­ful se­nior men makes it clear that many women’s ca­reers have been stunted. Think of what might have been?

I be­gan my ca­reer as a com­modi­ties trader, and my as­pi­ra­tions re­quired that I be a pi­o­neer. The roles that in­volved ad­vance­ment sim­ply did not have a his­tory of peo­ple who fit my pro­file: woman trader, per­son of color, im­mi­grant, mar­ried and hav­ing a child, while on the job, and—the ul­ti­mate sur­prise—a top pro­ducer. While sex­ist and crude jokes ruled the day, they were never di­rected to­ward me, at least not to my face. I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate how lucky I was to be in a role that mea­sured you so ob­jec­tively; all that re­ally mat­tered was your trad­ing prow­ess. When you were a rookie and at the base of the power hi­er­ar­chy, you got picked on un­re­lent­ingly; it didn’t mat­ter whether you were male or fe­male, cit­i­zen or im­mi­grant, young or old.

It wasn’t till I be­came a wealth ad­viser that I saw the depth and breadth of the misog­yny. The sex­ism wasn’t re­stricted to dirty jokes. The women in the of­fice— mostly young ad­min­is­tra­tive and op­er­a­tions as­sis­tants—were sub­jected to mer­ci­less ha­rass­ment. Once again, as one of the few like me, I was at the base of the power hi­er­ar­chy, de­ter­mined to climb up and have the power to change things. It took me six years to break into the top ranks. In that time, my deep­est re­grets were about re­main­ing silent to the ha­rass­ment and abuse di­rected to­ward the more-ju­nior fe­male staff. My be­hav­ior was com­plicit; I was build­ing my own po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal and was un­will­ing to spend any of it on chal­leng­ing the es­tab­lish­ment.

Sadly, that blind eye is as ubiq­ui­tous to­day as it was then among women try­ing to move up. Per­haps one out­come of our chang­ing cli­mate is that not only are women find­ing their voice when sub­jected to bad be­hav­ior, but se­nior women might also be more ac­tive in en­sur­ing work­place fair­ness. As peers of some of these men, it will be harder for us to hide from our re­spon­si­bil­ity. The young women will, and should, look to us for help; and se­nior man­age­ment and share­hold­ers might ex­pect, if not de­mand, that we play a more ac­tive role in pro­tect­ing the brand from preda­tory be­hav­ior.

This cul­ture of abu­sive be­hav­ior has ex­isted for gen­er­a­tions, but now a ti­dal wave of women is ris­ing up against pow­er­ful men who are phys­i­cal or emo­tional abusers. It’s clearly the right time to speak out against it. Let us call it out when we see it; let us change cul­tures; and let us speak about it with our grand­fa­thers, fa­thers, brothers, hus­bands, sons, grand­sons, friends and col­leagues. We talk about build­ing strong, coura­geous and re­silient daugh­ters; let us teach the men in our lives—es­pe­cially our sons—how we want them to treat the women in their lives. From their ini­tial in­ter­ac­tions with girls, let us let them know what their ac­count­abil­ity is. Through­out their lives, let them be guided by the thought, “If I did or said this, what would my mother say?” Then and only then can we count on en­dur­ing change.

“My deep­est re­gret: re­main­ing silent to the ha­rass­ment and abuse.”

SUBHA BARRY Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Work­ing Mother Me­dia

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