Are female-led companies the answer to sexual misconduct?

Are female-led companies the answer to sexual misconduct?

The Weinstein Company thought it had found a path to survival. A group of investors led by a respected businesswoman offered to acquire the company, rebrand it and install a female-led board of directors. It was an eye-catching idea in a country where men dominate corporate boards in almost every industry. […]
[…] Is putting women in charge of a company enough to guarantee an environment safe from sexual misconduct? In the wider business world, promoting more women to boards and the C-Suite is considered a critical step, but critics caution it is not enough, particularly when it comes to turning around a company so engulfed in scandal that it has become the poster child for sexual misconduct.[…]

It’s flawed logic to be focussing on gender as a solution. There is a pretty simple test to determine if someone is experiencing harassment in the workplace – does a particular behaviour make the person uncomfortable?
The ability to make this determination is not exclusive to women, and may equally be found in men. Likewise, men and women are both capable of being the perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

Making a broad brush decision to put women on boards and in charge of companies to prevent sexual misconduct makes two assumptions: 1) that sexual misconduct is always perpetrated by men and 2) that men are incapable of preventing sexual misconduct. That’s pretty insulting on both counts.
The majority of men do not behave badly in the workplace, but because a few do, the rest are assumed to be alike. Women seem to not only get a free pass, they are automatically assumed to be saviours of virtue.

[…] The number of women on boards does not tell the full story of what workplaces look like deeper inside company, or across an industry. […]

Of course, it doesn’t. You need eyes and ears on the work floor to have any clue whether the day to day conduct of staff is free from sexual harassment and inappropriate comments.

[…] One recent case in point involved Fidelity, one of the few investment management firms led by a woman. The company last year fired two fund managers over allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate comments. The company has several women in top executive posts, including CEO Abigail Johnson, who has led the company founded by her family since 2014. […]
[…] Johnson won praise for her handling of the misconduct complaints, which included firing a star fund manager and taking the unusual step of moving her office from the executive suit several floors down to where portfolio managers and traders sit.  […]

Yes, good result, and yes, Johnson was a woman. But this could equally have been done by a man who had the same objective – to clean up the workplace.
Hire people that will not tolerate sexual harassment in all it’s forms, regardless of their gender.


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