Chief Human Resource and Strategy Officer, Society for Human Resource Management
Sexual harassment is a behavioral travesty that has been pervasive in societies for as long as there has been interaction between humans. And it has flourished because its victims are subjected to a stigma that leads to feelings of embarrassment, shame and fear that stops them from reporting incidents of such behavior to the proper authorities. The reversal of this stigma is one goal of the Me Too movement.
A few brave women
It only took a few brave women going public with their stories to begin to establish a turnabout in the long-standing stigma associated with reporting sexual harassment. The multiple high-profile accusations of powerful men’s attempts to compromise the privacy, self-respect and integrity of women and some men have motivated scores of others to go public with similar allegations.
Companies are now seriously reviewing and revising non-harassment policies that have been effectively dormant since their adoption, and those without such policies are suddenly elevating their creation and adoption to a pinnacle level of priority.
Facing the consequences
These policies are now including sharper enforcement “teeth,” objective investigation mechanisms and severe disciplinary penalties for those determined to behave in an unacceptable and harassing manner.
Many organizations are demonstrating that no one, even a so-called high-value or high-profile employee, is exempt from even the most drastic disciplinary action if found to be in violation of a company’s harassment policy. This is an effect of the Me Too movement.
Most organizations are strengthening mandatory harassment training for all employees, including senior management, and requiring more frequent participation in these training exercises.
Stricter policies, organizational commitment to enforcing those policies, and more comprehensive training programs are only the beginning of an effective battle against sexual harassment in the workplace.
The concerted effort to remove the stigma of victims associated with coming forward and forcefully reporting harassment and abuse is definitely a strong and welcome effect of the current Me Too movement.