#MeToo…On Building a Better Workplace

Submitted by Mary Meade on April 22, 2018

Stories of inequality and victimization have been part of human history across the ages. The voices of women throughout this narrative have been silenced as much as they have been expressed from a man’s point of view. But perhaps for the first time in history, the voices of women are being believed before those of powerful men.

The #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo Movement that began with film executive Harvey Weinstein being named as a serial harasser in October of last year represented the tip of the iceberg – around the world, women have spoken up in the millions. The hashtag has been translated into Italian (#QuellaVoltaChe, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”), taking off the mask of rape culture and victim blaming. Silence, fueled by fear of retribution, hid these stories for so long. Then people who had been sexually harassed were breaking their silence with keyboard clicks and tweets.

The pressure that the entertainment and political spheres have felt from the “tidal wave” that is #MeToo has begun to flood other industries. Gender-based violence is being recognized across sectors and socialized doubt (“what were you wearing?” and “were you drunk?”) is slowly being replaced with belief and Zero Tolerance policies.

Workplace Culture

The stories of these brave women have revealed that there are deeper, underlying issues to our treatment of women and culture around gender. Unlearning the current cycle of socialization and its roots in victim-blaming and objectification will take effort on the part of individuals, but perhaps even more importantly, on the part of organizations.

Pax World, a Green Business Network member that is committed to social justice, recognizes two fundamental flaws of workplaces that are plagued with sexual harassment and sexual assault: poor culture and poor governance. Essentially, a workplace environment that trivializes sexual violence is one that experiences poor culture; another that openly calls out unacceptable behavior, supports survivors/accusers, and prevents future occurrences is one that avoids sexual violence. Additionally, corporations that are governed equally by men and women tend to make elimination of sexual violence a priority.

These are important elements to understanding the scope of the problem. However, framing a new organizational structure and implementing thoughtful policy is the part that demonstrates a company’s move towards progress.

Building a Better Work Environment

Before addressing workplace policies, it’s important to note that although the #MeToo Movement relies on many stories from heterosexual women experiencing sexual harassment and assault from powerful men, trans and bisexual communities face the most alarming rates of sexual violence. Company policy and workplace dialogue must not exclude these voices.

The first step to building a better work environment is recognizing that your organization is not immune. Analyzing flaws in current policies is essential to understanding where your organization falls short. Addressing these issues with thoughtful, inclusive policies (emphasis on gender-inclusivity) fosters a safer and more just workplace. It’s important to note that harassment can come from anyone to anyone, regardless of gender identity, and with or without physical touch.

Being accountable for your actions, even as a bystander, can also shift the culture. Men and women who witness harassment in action must not tolerate it – rather, they need to call it out, report it, and support the survivor/accuser. Building a better workplace means every individual is responsible. Empowering managers through positive workplace training as well as sharing resource lists with employees (both internal departments and external organizations) demonstrates transparency.

Pax World mutual fund company illustrates a holistic method for addressing the world environment. Through gender-lens investing, a sector that “integrates gender concerns into investment decisions to yield positive financial returns and positive social outcomes for women,” Pax World suggests that the industry can evolve from the inside-out by investing in women. This also means that including the rest of the gender spectrum is vital.

Effective sexual violence policies in the workplace don’t just prevent and react to hostile situations, they also aim for culture change. Michelle Kim, CEO of Awaken, wrote a thorough piece for Medium on how companies can respond to the #MeToo movement.

A Green Economy is a Socially Just Economy

There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure inclusivity and positive dialogue both in and out of the workplace. The narrative of victimization and sympathy must end – instead, narratives of policy and culture change must take the forefront. Fostering active listening and the importance of consent will inspire unity and a healthier, productive work environment.

Here at the Green Business Network, all of our businesses must meet our standards of social and environmental responsibility. We are proud that our members recognize the value of a positive workplace culture for all people. Our members are proof that a green economy is also a socially just one.

More from the Blog