My Facebook and Twitter feeds are blowing up with women posting “#MeToo”. It started with Alyssa Milano who initiated a Twitter campaign urging her followers and millions of women to share their stories, or simply acknowledge that they too had dealt with sexual harassment and assault through the hashtag #MeToo.
Women are joining the movement in droves, including many of my friends and colleagues. Of course it is not surprising. I would have to really dig deep to think of a woman I know who has not somehow dealt with the issue. It is a continuum. From the universally abhorrent sexual assault and rape to vile sexual harassment. To the more subtle and insidious sexual stifling of women’s success every single day in the workplace due to their gender. The modus operandi may differ but it is always about power and authority. We have all experienced it. Social media – and famous voices – allow us to join in and be heard. But are we saying enough? Better yet, are we doing enough?
If you use history as a guide, people have come together over and over to protest the things they vehemently oppose or to take a stand against an injustice. In our country’s relatively young history, it started with the Revolutionary War. We saw it again during the Civil War, in the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, protesting the Vietnam War. Most recently we saw it as millions of women and many men marched in protest of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency and hundreds of NFL players took a knee to protest racial injustice. There is strength in numbers.
But there is strength in each of our individual voices too. Every one of these historic changes started with one spark of indignation, one person who saw the need for cultural shift and spoke out. One spark that became two that became three and that started a fire. Each and every woman in the workplace is that spark and together we can effectuate change. Can you imagine if every woman in the women’s march took that conviction into each of their workplaces and, along with other women, demanded equal access to leadership? Equal pay? Or even something smaller like not having a man interrupt them when sharing an idea? It is our obligation to ourselves and to the next generation of women in the workplace to be the catalysts for cultural change. And while it will be those men who understand the importance of diversity and inclusion who help push change through, it is the responsibility of women to demand that seat at the table.
#MeToo is awesome. It builds awareness and it begins necessary conversation. We need to speak out about the horrifying abuses of power that certain men believe they are entitled to inflict on women. We need to strip the stigma and take that power back. But we also need to stand up for the micro abuses that happen to us every day in the workplace. Those seemingly insignificant affronts that aggregate into career stagnations. Harvey Weinstein has opened up the floodgates in a way that Bill Cosby, Mel Gibson and Roman Polanksi never did. And now it us up to each of us, every day, to take this opportunity to broaden the conversation. To have a voice and to use it. To build our skills to be amazing leaders, consummate communicators, inclusive team collaborators. To act in a way that is real and meaningful together. Generations before blazed the trail and opened doors that allowed us into the workplace. But now that we have been there, we have a job to do. We must stand together to create a workplace culture of equal access for the millions of women yet to come.
Stand up. Speak out. Seize change.