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Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement

Although this is our Black History Month issue, sexual harassment has featured so prominently in the news and my thoughts lately, I could not ignore the pull to weigh in on the subject. So, I enlisted a couple of voices from among my colleagues. Evelyn Olson Lamden and Audrey Dempsey recently shared with me their thoughts about the current #MeToo movement.

Olson Lamden: As a young professional back in the 1970’s, my experiences echoed many of those coming forward with other 40-year-old stories. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had not yet been formed, men were still in the driver’s seat in corporations and female managers were a rarity, especially in my industry, tire manufacturing. I had to learn how to be “one of the guys.”

Nevertheless, I decided to just be me and do the best job I could. I assumed there’d be sexual advances and innuendos, and considered it part of my job to navigate. But while the sexual inferences haven’t changed, the attitudes of women have. So, now I will say something that may not be popular…

I support the reason why #MeToo is necessary, but feel that some may have taken it too far. We have made men fearful to compliment a woman. I also believe we have different definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment, and that the punishments for real harassment should not be the same as for correctable offenses and occasional bad judgement on the part of most men. I don’t appreciate women who think it’s okay to destroy a man’s career over what might be a minor offense, but do support women who have legitimate claims of harassment and threats if they don’t comply.

Let’s keep #MeToo for the real victims, and not the rest of us who were slightly offended by improper actions. Let’s not water down the effectiveness of such a campaign and risk losing our credibility.

Dempsey: As someone who was raped as a teenager, I have my own take on the situation. I had to take some responsibility for what happened as I had too much too drink and couldn’t stop what happened. The worse part was that I told my mother the next day and she didn’t believe me. “He’s a nice Jewish boy that’s going to be a lawyer.” Through the years, I have had many instances where I was a victim of harassment but I always had the opportunity to say “no” and I did. As a true romantic who was always looking for love in the wrong places, I got into some tricky situations but somehow I still managed to say “no.”

My concern today is identifying the difference between inappropriate behavior and real abuse. I’m glad women are speaking up but I hope that their claims are real. It seems to have become a craze. If I tease a guy in fun and put my hand on his leg, is that abuse that should get me fired?/

I believe women and men should speak up when inappropriate behavior is happening to make it clear it is unacceptable. When someone says “no” and the situation continues, that’s a problem. People now have a platform to speak out until someone listens, but like anything else it should not be abused either. People’s lives depend on the truthfulness of these allegations. All of us need to examine our actions and motives and ask ourselves “Is this appropriate behavior?” The issue truly is about having respect for all people, including ourselves./

Thank you, ladies, for your candor. Much disadvantage has been taken, by men, of the attitude of male superiority perpetrated by previous generations. I agree that it is well past time for women to be taken more seriously in regard to their issues and complaints. They should not be shrugged off as insignificant but neither are they to be treated as one-size-fits-all. It is my hope that in the drawing of the line, the punishment fits the crime.

And here is where you come in. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Is there a line and where should it be drawn? Tweet, Facebook or email me your response, #Me2Take2 #MBEmag, and we will share it with our readers and followers. Let’s keep the dialogue going. Evil deeds cannot thrive in the light of revelation.

Cheers!

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