The Facebook COO’s thoughts on sexual harassment in the workplace, and what companies can do to stop it.
Sheryl Sandberg has a plan to stop sexual harassment.
In a powerful piece posted to Facebook Sunday by Sandberg, 48, the company’s chief operating officer shared her personal brushes with harassment, as well as six steps she says companies should implement to curtail its prevalence.
The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: “It's the economy, stupid.”Today, as headlines are…
A series of high-profile men like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, have been dismissed in recent weeks from their organizations over allegations of workplace harassment and sexual misconduct; Sandberg attributed this to these influential men believing they wield greater power over their female colleagues.
“The 1992 presidential race was once summed up in a pointed phrase: ‘It’s the economy, stupid,'” Sandberg wrote in her more than 1,300-word piece. “Today, as headlines are dominated by stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, a similar phrase comes to mind: ‘It’s the power, stupid.'”
“[Like] almost every woman — and some men — I know, I have experienced sexual harassment in the form of unwanted sexual advances in the course of doing my job,” the author of “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” revealed. “A hand on my leg under the table at a meeting. Married men — all decades older than I — offering ‘career advice’ and then suggesting that they could share it with me alone late at night. The conference where a man I declined leaving a dinner with came to my hotel room late at night and banged on my door until I called security.”
“As I’ve become more senior and gained more power, these moments have occurred less and less frequently. But they still happen every so often, even in my current job — but only ever with men who, in that moment, feel that they have more power than I do.” Currently, Sandberg has an estimated fortune of $1.58 billion, according to Forbes, and the rank of no. 4 on the magazine’s list of “Power Women” for 2017.
Indeed, Sandberg’s view regarding power could be very accurate, according to recent research. “[Men] who are feeling more powerless over an extended period but then experience new heightened power are the most likely to sexually harass, compared to other men,” wrote psychiatrists Dr. Raj Persaud and Dr. Peter Bruggen in an article for Psychology Today last month. “Previous research has already found that those in positions of power (vs. non-power holders) are more likely to view people as objects, rather than as individuals,” they added.
Sandberg acknowledged that we have reached “a critical moment for anyone who faces unwanted sexual advances at work,” but wants companies to implement actionable “changes that deter bad behavior and protect everyone, from professionals climbing the corporate ladder to workers in low-paid positions who often have little power.” Here are six strategies she suggested to do that:
- “Develop workplace training that sets the standard for respectful behavior at work, so people understand right from the start what’s expected of them.”
- “[Treat] all claims — and the people who voice them — with seriousness, urgency, and respect.”
- “[Create] an investigation process that protects employees from stigma or retaliation.”
- “[Follow] a process that is fairly and consistently applied in every case, both for victims and the accused.”
- “[Take] swift and decisive action when wrongdoing has occurred.”
- And finally, “make it clear that all employees have a role to play in keeping workplaces safe — and that enablers and failed gatekeepes are complicit when they stay silent or look the other way.”
Sandberg also called for the recruitment of more women, and for male managers to be unafraid to mentor female direct reports. “Ultimately, the thing that will bring the most to change our culture is the one that I’ve been writing and talking about for a long time: having more women with more power.”
As of Monday morning, Sandberg’s post has been liked nearly 5,000 times. Her colleague and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote her this reply: “Thanks for your leadership here. This is so important and I know the advice to establish clear principles and policies will help improve many organizations.”
Sandberg concluded: “It wouldn’t solve all the problems we face if more women were in power — although I believe we could get quite a lot of good done. But one thing’s for certain: many fewer people would be groped and worse while trying to do their jobs. And that would be a major step in the right direction.”
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