2017 was the year of the silence breakers. Women’s stories of sexual assault, abuse, harassment, and misconduct swept news headlines, and for the first time in history, #MeToo moments could not be ignored. While some companies and individuals took initiative to speak up, implement zero-tolerance policies, admit the need for change, others have gone silent, taking the path of fear and denial. There is no more middle ground, 2018 is the year to take action (#MeTooWhatsNext).
Despite a nationwide swell of awareness, an insidious growing feeling of “us” against “them” led to questions about just how sustainable this ongoing reckoning actually is in its current form. Backlash has already surfaced as some have suggested that #MeToo goes too far and threatens to prematurely end men’s careers. Additionally, while #MeToo has given a voice to so many, a significant group has been left out: those who lack the financial security to bear the potential consequences of speaking up.
While much remains in the air, 2018 will certainly see drastic changes in the way individuals and companies begin to address not only the symptoms, but the deep underlying causes of misogynistic cultures. One thing is clear, the burden of responsibility cannot, once again, fall on the shoulders of the oppressed. Only when men and women unite together, will we have a fighting chance at fixing the broken system. What will it take to build a sustainable movement out of a #MeToo moment? Focusing on #MetooWhatsNext, Forbes spoke with a group of founders, investors and activists and asked them to share their thoughts on what needs to happen next.
Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO, MakeLoveNotPorn
Get every level and work environment at every company to gender-equal or more female than male as quickly as possible. Sexual harassment magically disappears in environments where there are as many or more women than men, because there is no longer the implicit bro endorsement in a male-dominated environment that it’s okay to behave like that, and because when men engage all the time with women all around them as professional equals and superiors, they no longer see women in one of only two roles: girlfriend or secretary.
Daniel Chait, CEO, Greenhouse
Simply put, hire more women and put women in positions of power. How? Take a more structured approach to hiring, to overcome implicit bias and more evidence-based decisions vs. “gut feel.” Proactively source women (and other under-represented groups) to build more diverse pipelines. Audit your hiring experience to reveal opportunities to eliminate bias – in job descriptions, interviews, your careers page, even who meets with candidates – making it more inclusive and welcoming to diverse talent. Measure diversity both overall and within your leadership ranks, and report this to your board and employees.
Sara Mauskopf, CEO, Winnie
It’s incredibly simple. We need more women at the highest levels of leadership and in positions of power in every industry. If you’re in a position to fund, promote, advance or improve workplace conditions for women in your field you should do it, not just talk about how you’d like to do it. I promise you there are qualified women you already know, working right alongside you, and you’re either creating a hostile environment for them or simply overlooking them.
Sophia Yen, MD, CEO, Pandia Health
Given that one out of five college women will be sexually assaulted, every alumnus of a college should pledge notto donate until someone is expelled for sexual assault. Watch The Hunting Ground and see the list of ridiculous punishments for sexual assault. We should set up an escrow account of all the annual donations that are being held until someone is expelled to show that colleges are taking sexual assault seriously.
Allison Esposito, Founder, Tech Ladies, Inc.
More stories! I think the more these stories come out, and the consistency with which they come out across sectors will continue to make a change for women in the world. It’s important that this becomes a movement and not just a moment. We have the chance to shift culture and make it so that victims are believed when they come out. It won’t be a perfectly straight line, some will be believed and some will not be, but the more we keep speaking up, the more change will seep into the general consciousness. The best that men can do is amplify women’s voices and projects to help push this forward.
Cindy Whitehead, CEO and Founder, The Pink Ceiling
I know we should be entering the new year with optimism, but I worry that nothing meaningful will change if the current climate of divisiveness creates “sides” on this issue. I have been hearing an “us versus them” mantra that can lead to battle lines being drawn by gender. The only side we should all be on is the side of right. Solving this requires that we foster workplace environments where we assume the best of each other and have zero tolerance if that is inappropriately violated. In that environment every decent human, male or female, has the opportunity to be on the side of right.
James Anderson, Human Rights Activist
The first step in this process for men is to truly listen to survivors and acknowledge that this continues to happen to countless of women on a daily basis. Every day actions must be taken into account on how it affects and adds to this system, from our daily interactions to the media we support. Community groups should be hosted where these conversations can begin to take place with women leading the conversations, providing men the opportunity to learn the local actions they can take to best get involved and provide support. The next is to take action and get involved in disrupting rape culture by standing up when sexual violence is treated or talked about like a joke. Getting involved in your community’s rape crisis center is another important step in order to understand the devastating affects rape and sexual violence has on survivors.
2018 will be the year of taking action. What will you do to empower the women in your home and workplace? How is your organization committing to creating more inclusive workspaces? Let me know in the comments below. #MeTooWhatsNext
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