Saturday, November 25, 2017

Eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace will lead to social change

During the twentieth century, sexual equality has improved in most parts of the world. Women entering the workplace and the sexual revolution have precipitated the full participation of women in society. Still, the twentieth century saw working women mostly as secretaries and phone operators, with little or no opportunity for advancement. Although quota systems have helped, the male-dominated and intimidating corporate world has remained difficult for women to enter. For example, auditions for major orchestras, women were never hired in a face to face audition. To change the status quo, in US professional orchestras, blind auditions were introduced in the 1970s. In blind auditions, the identity of candidates is concealed from the jury by a screen. In the following two decades, blind audition gave women a chance to shine in orchestras; the percent of female musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras rose more than three times and six times overall. 

The recent exposure of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and others have shown that quotas alone cannot solve the existing sexual inequalities. Although Weinstein’s downfall opened the floodgates for exposing sexual misconduct of high-powered public figures, these revelations probably represent just the tip of the iceberg, disclosing only familiar, well-known people in the movie industry, politics and news media. The same problems probably exist in education, manufacturing, banking, and the medical field. When people in leadership positions get away with predatory and abusive behavior, equality remains illusory. The above social problems affect women by eroding trust and leading to uncertainty. Lack of confidence changes the mind in subtle ways. It reduces the brilliance, creativity, and innovative spirit, that is necessary for promotion and career advancement. Even for women without personal experience with sexual harassment, the work milieu is often tainted by ruthlessness, aggression, and willingness to bend the rules.

Trust is vital for better economic advancement and thus correlates with higher social status. Several recent studies confirm that individuals with greater trust have lower likelihoods of default in household debt and also have higher incomeand higher net worth. Making the workplace safe for women will reformulate the dynamics of social interaction by muting conflicts, spurring better cooperation, and ushering in a more free and flexible social environment. Mutual respect of the sexes will nurture trust, reduce social distance and promote faster social and technological progress. The ability to file complaints anonymously and safely would significantly reduce the likelihood of sexual abuse in the workplace.

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