2017 was a year of pivotal change for gender equality. Ashley Judd’s accusations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein appeared in the New York Times on October 5th. Soon after, Alyssa Milano reignited the #MeToo phrase (originally coined by Tarana Burke in 2006) on October 15, which quickly became a massive social media movement (Chicago Tribune). From that point on, there has been an avalanche of accusations, movement organizing, and open dialogue regarding sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace.From Hollywood sets to office cubicles, “today’s work environment is much different after the #MeToo revelations” (Harvard Business Review). This powerhouse hashtag has brought not only sexual harassment issues to the forefront, but also heightened awareness of inequality and bias that goes by many other names. Yet, as we well know, awareness is not enough. There is much more work to be done and employers no longer have the luxury of simply asking “is this legal?”—since society is demanding that employers ask “is this morally right and fair?”.Now is the time to continue identifying and leveraging opportunities for positive change—from gender inequality to other areas of discrimination that unfortunately still exist today. For example, below are a few unsettling statistics that demonstrate the very real presence of unfairness, bullying, harassment, hostility and gender inequality in the workplace.

  • Discrimination the base of race and color is still one of the highest percentage of claims at over 35% (EEOC)
  • Women earn 80% of what men earn (CNN)
  • 1 out of 5 C-suite executives are women and 1 out of 30 those leaders are women of color (McKinsey)
  • 40% of LGBT employees report being bullied at work (Career Builder)
  • Sexual harassment is not just an issue impacting women; nearly 1 in 5 EEOC complaints about sexual harassment come from men (EEOC)
  • Unemployment for those with disability is 10% compared to 4% (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Religious discrimination charges in 2017 were 20% greater than in previous decades (EEOC)
  • More than one-third of veteran job seekers experience underemployment (ZipRecruiter and Call of Duty Endowment)
  • 64% of people report seeing or experiencing age discrimination (AARP)

While these numbers are alarming, it’s important to remember that there are actual people behind them and that diversity isn’t just about a protected class or socioeconomic status. Instead, these numbers represent real people and in many cases you may relate to these statistics personally, or are close to someone who can. That’s why we believe that this is an issue of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. It’s up to all of us to be better humans and to see every other person as a human too. All employers and employees should use the impact of the #MeToo movement and gender inequality in the workplace to join together for greater change with a #WeAll cultural shift.

Why #WeAll Must Be Agents for Change

One universal understanding in our industry (and beyond) is that discrimination and gender inequality in the workplace is a dilemma for all of us that cannot be solved easily. Or, more likely, not solved at all. In fact, a dilemma is by definition not the same thing as a problem, which can be solved (think math - math problems have a clear solution). A dilemma is something that has no clear solution but instead has to be addressed and managed over time. In order to make progress against this dilemma a lot of introspection is called for in order to confront our own biases, both conscious and not, as well as courage for action in even the smallest ways in our day-to-day.  Here are few questions for that voice in the back of your head to bring focus to the example you’re setting in workplace interactions, expectations and behaviors:

  • Do you seek to understand if inequality and bias exist in your organization?
  • Do you take responsibility and stand up for people even when it’s hard or uncomfortable?
  • Are you empathetic?
  • Do you give respect regardless of gender, age, race, religion, etc.?
  • Do you presume women want more flexibility than men?
  • Do you judge men who stay home with their kids?
  • Do you experience other lifestyles and cultures in immersive ways when possible and seek to understand other experiences and points of view?
  • Do you consider people with disabilities to have just as much potential as others to contribute to your organization?
  • Do you ask those younger than you for advice?
  • Do you ask those older than you for advice?
  • Do you lead with compassion and foster inclusion?
  • Do you challenge yourself and those around you to cultivate real change and innovation in workplace?

If you know someone who has been marginalized at work “let them know you are there for them. Help them access the organizational and legal resources that do exist. Simply help them know they are not alone and to rehearse responses and behaviors they can use to stop abusive interactions in the moment” (Harvard Business Review).And don’t forget that there is a story behind every person, and a reason they are who they are. As employers and fellow employees, let’s change our ways to not just stay out of headlines, but because what we do impacts the people that we all love and care for. We all need to do more together to bring humanity back to work. Whether it’s by lifting others up, leading with compassion, or facing your own biases, each and every one of us can make an impact.

Final Takeaway

And remember this—if your only function as a business is to make money, you will never do more than this, and instead, will most certainly do less. That’s why we challenge you to do more and lead. We’re confident, if you do, your employees and business will all reap the benefits.  For more information or ideas on how your company can be a part of the #WeAll movement, contact livingHR today or join the social conversation - Facebook |  Twitter | LinkedIn.  

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