"I'm going to go on record right now, I don’t think it’s going to be a close election,” says Lauren Leader-Chivée, Co-Founder and CEO of All In Together. “Because despite the rhetoric, it is not who we are.”
Leader-Chivée, a political correspondent who dedicated her life working to close gender and racial gaps in business and politics, believes Hillary's win will usher in a new female-focused perspective in our government.“Two years ago [I said to] Chelsea Clinton ‘it’s time, and she said ‘it’s way past the time,” says the author of Crossing the Thinnest Line. “I am so convinced that women are essential to our political process.”
Leader-Chivée, a lifelong democrat who is often featured on FOX and CNN, says the 2016 election is more about differences in leadership than differences in policies.
"We have a major diversity problem."“I spend a lot of time on Conservative media and have been on a lot of shows with women who support Trump,” she says. “What we are seeing play out in this election is the whole new fundamental question of what is leadership. And you see the same thing happening in business. Is leadership this command and control, powerful personality that [believes] ‘I alone can solve this,’ or is it a more inclusive collaborative, considering of other people’s perspectives, stereotypically female kind of leadership? That is really in many ways what we are voting on.”
Something that many may not realize is the great power women have in the outcomes of political races, says Leader-Chivée.
“Women have turned every election in this country since 1980,” she says. “We are the majority of the electorate and we are in fact more likely to turn out to vote than men.”
But, as with all the news surrounding gender and race that she covers in her book, there’s a flip side.
“The United States is 74th in the world for the political empowerment and participation of women, and we have fallen 20 places since 2015. Countries like Afghanistan, Tunisia, South Africa and Rwanda are all ahead of us in terms of their political representation of women and that has nothing to do with whether we elect a woman in this election”
For Leader-Chivée, social media has played an undeniable role in this election, but isn’t necessarily reflective of society’s political choices.
“This election has been like a funhouse mirror,” she says. “It has presented a warped view of who we are as a country. The extreme discrimination bias that has been so amplified by Twitter and the media in this election is not representative of who we are, but because of the great equalizing power of social media platforms it starts to seem like it is.”
She adds, “little did I know that this election would bring on one of the most venomous and difficult periods in our national conversation about this. It has certainly not elevated it.”
“This election has been like a funhouse mirror"
Part of the unspoken issue behind the negative election is the lack of women in roles of power, and the lack of comfort when they do step up into top spots.
“In the corporate world, something like 22 million women with college degrees at big companies are hitting a wall because there is still a great deal of bias in the promotion process and while women do extremely well in the early years, as they become more senior you start to hit the intangibles of what people see as leadership.”
© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.com
This disparity happens, in part because senior-level men are not investing as directly in women’s careers, helping them move forward.
“Even though women are as ambitions as men, they are often opting out from the pursuit of some of the senior most jobs in part because it doesn’t seem appealing to them," she says. "Even men and women who have equal performance reviews, the men are more likely to get promoted at senior levels.”
When it comes to entrepreneurs, the “massive funding gap,” is one of the biggest road blocks in terms of launching new businesses.
“About four percent of VC money goes to women-owned business," she says. "Women struggle with access to capital. Part of why you see so many women entering entrepreneurship is because they’re hitting a wall in the workplace. If you don’t see a path for yourself in a corporation you are more likely to want to define your own destiny and set it up, but that’s not a super easy road either.”
Of course, media is another problem.
"Media is one of the biggest reasons for the fact that women feel stunted when it comes to taking leadership roles, as 98 percent of executives at major media companies are white men," she says. “We have a major diversity problem among those who decide what we see,” she said, adding that the commentators and hosts are hugely skewed. “It’s still overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white.”
According to Leader-Chivée, who is the mother of two African American children, she wrote her book after witnessing the change in the diversity conversation in the country.
“I was prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the explosion of videos and conversation surrounding racial issues,” she says. “I had a sense that we were at a moment in the country, that the conversation around diversity had hit a point where we were faced with a choice; Are we going to spend the rest of our lifetimes rehashing the same fights, battles and breakdowns in understanding or is there a path to doing better?”
America will become minority/majority nation in our lifetimes, which is another reason a change is needed.
“The implications of that are profound,” says Leader-Chivée, who reveals that a run for office is potentially in her future. “I felt we hadn’t had a meaningful enough national conversation in my lifetime about the importance of diversity to our economy, to the social fabric of our nation, and to our identity as American.”
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Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.