The #MeToo Movement’s Impact 1 Year Later

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MeToo movement showing female and male wrecking balls colliding

It’s been a year.  A year since the sex-related behavior of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein became public.  The news sparked the flame that became the #MeToo Movement.  With a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano, the hashtag #MeToo spread like wildfire online with more than 500,000 mentions on Twitter and 12 million on Facebook in the first 24 hours alone.  It became a rallying cry for women and men who say they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault.

And while the #MeToo flame continues to burn, it is easily accepted the globe has been overtaken and not one industry left untouched.  In fact, a new report from the Society for Human Resources Management, or SHRM, blows away the smoke in highlighting what has changed since the movement began.

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Data gathered by SHRM shows one-third of executives have changed the way they operate where sexual harassment is concerned.  There have been other impacts as a result.  According to a news release about the report, those same executives report seeing:

  • Decreased morale
  • Decreased engagement
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased hostile work environments
  • Increased turnover

Translating the Movement

While SHRM reports 72% of employees feel “satisfied with their company’s efforts to stop sexual harassment in the workplace”, more than one-third still believe their workplace fosters sexual harassment.

That means more work is needed.  That’s not meant to diminish the changes that have already occurred.  New laws have been created that impact the workplace.  New and current company rules have been or are being enforced.  Communication between employees and HR professionals has become more direct and open.

And while there’s been quite a bit of change made with respect to workplace dynamics, not all of the changes have been good.

For instance, some executives have stopped inviting female colleagues on trips or networking events out of fear the situation could be inadvertently misconstrued.  That equals a decrease in the number of opportunities women have to network or connect with other people in their chosen fields.

The understanding of what constitutes as a sexual harassment act has impacted businesses as well with some men saying they are now uncomfortable around female co-workers.

Kingzleen Jabakumar is the HR manager for Uniware, an IT infrastructure solution company.  He says most people don’t know what sexual harassment is.

“I have been doing SH prevention training at different levels for many years and I consider my training a success when an employee starts thinking ‘what must I do in the workplace’ or ‘what is appropriate or inappropriate’.  That’s the common reaction after making them understand “what is sexual harrasment”, Jabakumar said. 

If HR professionals are not training employees on this topic, Jabakumar says it’s high time they started.

“It definitely demands a top down approach. Consider doing this training to top management separately and the rest separately. While handling top management, you can also educate them on addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, cause they are the most likely to receive complaints,” Jabakumar said.

HR’s Role

Whenever an event occurs within the company, especially one related to a sexual harassment case, HR must be present to help pick up the pieces. Sana’ Rasul, the Chief Girlfriend for HR Girlfriends LLC and a HR Exchange Network advisory board member, says it starts with the necessity of being transparent, honest, and authentic.

“I think it's important that people understand what HR’s role is. I think there's a misconception about what HR does, what our reign of power is, and our capabilities, and, actually, our boundaries,” Rasul said. She continued say more people need to understand HR's role as a consultant, an advisor, a policy enforcer, a policy developer.

That said, however, SHRM says executives want that to change.  They want HR to be empowered to “influence workplace culture to stop sexual harassment and foster a safe environment”.  Ways to do that include:

  • Enhancing HR’s ability to investigative allegations without retaliation
  • Conducting independent reviews of all workplace misconduct investigations
  • Increasing diversity in leadership roles

The Next Chapter

So, where is the focus of the movement now?

A year on, activists say more attention needs to be given to expanding reforms and finding new solutions to related issues.

Independent contractors, unpaid volunteers, and smaller businesses sometimes fall outside the protection of new sexual harassment laws.

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To help counter that issue, some legislatures have proposed requiring public companies to report the number of sexual harassment settlements they've made in the last 12 months and how much they paid.  This would establish benchmarks and provide reveal patterns or surges in complaints.

Activists also say more resources need to be devoted to helping survivors.  That includes psychological counseling and legal assistance.

In the end, as stated before, there is still a lot of work to be done, but positive strides have already been made.

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Mason Stevenson
HR Exchange Network