The Winds of Change – The Sexual Harassment Cycle
With many high profile sexual harassment cases making headlines, will we finally see lasting change?
As I watch the events unfold in the media, like a lot of you, I find myself wondering if this time, finally, things might change a little bit. I have watched with interest as members of the media and Hollywood elite speak out, and form the currents of what I hope to be social change.
I can’t help but have two thoughts: 1. Is this the current expression of a cycle that has been playing out historically for longer then we care to think? And if so, what can we learn; and 2. If making change and speaking out is such an uphill battle for this section of our society, what is it like for those without the access to support.
As I contemplate question 1, I recall my own career and journey in the area of Harassment and Discrimination investigator and trainer. I recall that when my Mother set up this consulting business, another series of public events were playing out quite publicly; the Anita Hill matter. I see that many of the issues are eerily similar. At the time I was graduating from High School and I can recall turning in an assignment on Harassment in the workplace, a topic not then readily discussed. Since that time, both my Mother and I have dedicated much of our lives to the proper investigation of Harassment cases in the workplace. We have completed more investigations than we can easily recall and have interviewed thousands of people about all manner of allegation. We have trained several cohorts of the brightest Human Resources professionals in this Country. The work has been very rewarding.
A few years ago, I was even lulled into thinking that maybe society had finally made some change; I was receiving far less sexual harassment investigation requests. I was optimistic. Now, I am not so sure. For the past few years, we have seen a mounting acceleration of high profile cases. The same themes are presenting themselves once again. I wonder, are we back to the same old territory we found ourselves in then?
Question 2 is equally tricky for me. On the one hand I believe that as discourse on the topic increases, as the headlines appear and become part of the collective, so too does the ability for those subjected to sexual harassment to report the issue, where they once may have not. I’m not sure if that is overly optimistic of me, I would like to believe that this is true, but deep down I know that there are many, have been many and will be many instances of injustice and abuse that are simply never reported or dealt with effectively. Power imbalance plays a central role. Unless and until that is effectively mitigated in the companies we work in and indeed the very fabric of our society, it is hard to see a clear path to effective change. When one party holds all the cards, what hand can a victim play?
It is with these thoughts in mind that I will continue to pursue my goal of conducting fair, balanced, unbiased workplace Harassment and Discrimination investigations and I will continue to throw myself into training our leaders to do the same. That is my hand to play and I intend to play it well. I hope to see you soon at a training event!