Power harassment indifference

Jim Hightower
PHOTO BY LARRY D. MOORE
Jim Hightower

click to enlarge Jim Hightower - PHOTO BY LARRY D. MOORE
PHOTO BY LARRY D. MOORE
Jim Hightower
In corporations, universities, government offices and elsewhere, there is usually an oppressive male culture and a repressive power structure that routinely shortchanges women on pay and on promotions. That’s bad enough, but adding insult to injury, prevailing conventional wisdom blames women for this! They’re not “career-oriented,” or they’re too thin-skinned, or they’re not aggressive enough, or they’re too moody, and they need to “lean in” more. The core cause of this deep and pervasive discrimination is the glaring inequality of power that men hold over women.

Spurred by the explosion of hundreds of thousands of #MeToo revelations, harassment has finally climbed to the top-of-the-charts ranking of things holding back women in practically every line of employment:

1. In recent surveys, 81 percent of women say they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment.


2. About half of girls say they’ve encountered harassment in their schools.

3. Employers and officials usually discount the veracity of women/girls who complain and accept the denials of men who’re accused.

4. Male hierarchies, meekly supported by some women, tend to ostracize and retaliate against victims who report abuse.

5. Some 80 percent of young women who’ve been harassed on the job tell surveyors that rather than file a complaint that higher-ups won’t take seriously, they just leave the jobs. Some places just don’t think it’s a big deal that their organizational hierarchy tolerates a grab-ass mentality and allows abuse. More commonly, though, harassment and discrimination persist because leadership only addresses it bureaucratically, incrementally and ever so cautiously. While those in charge of these companies and groups loudly condemn all such actions as “unacceptable,” they quietly accept the actions by doing nothing more than setting up a “diversity committee” or providing some “sensitivity training.”


A couple of abuser factors are in play here: One is that the offenders lawyer up, so the response to the abuse ends up focused primarily on limiting the institution’s liability, rather than concentrating on cleansing the toxic culture. Second is what I call “The Willie,” borrowed from Willie Nelson’s humorous idea that he wants his tombstone to read “He meant well.”

Jamie Dimon is a prime example of those who cry for progress but then throttle back to a putt-putt pace. As CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Dimon has cultivated an image of an enlightened Wall Streeter who touts the merits of having female decision-makers throughout the bank’s corporate structure. “It is the right thing to do, plain and simple,” he told New York Times interviewer Rebecca Blumenstein in September. Yet, when she gently noted that JPMorgan’s 11-member governing board includes only two women (18 percent), Dimon’s enlightenment dimmed. He says he can only go so far in trying to do the right thing: “It’s hard for me to do a board search and say I’m only going to look at women.”

Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, a partnership with the National Women’s Law Center, helps workers who are experiencing harassment – in any industry – with free legal help. See http://nwlc.org/legal-assistance and donate here: http://timesupnow.com.

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