We are living at a time when our voices are more critical than ever. You hear that everywhere, from everyone, and all the time. And you know what? It’s absolutely true.
Global warming has gone from a scary scenario in the far future to real, imminent reality. Religious persecution in the U.S. has gone from a 16th century injustice that's been conquered to a terrifying possibility 250 years later. Slavery has moved from a shameful part of American history to modern day law and order. Did you know that sex trade is rampant on the web? Double click on that term and you will find the dark web filled with underground child sex rings and human trafficking exploits. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with 68% of them trapped in forced labor; 26% of them are children, and 55% of them are women and girls. It also estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. That’s close to the GDP of Portugal. Does this make you sick? Good, it should.
This is compounded by the fact that we are a consumer generation. As these scary stories unfold, we gobble them up. We have content coming out of our pores; we are inundated by every feed out there, news outlet, social platform, blogs, hell, this very article is an instance of it. We are a straight-up "gimme gimme" generation, and with new apps rolling out every day, we can have anything sliced up and served to us in any fashion we like the moment we see it. Groceries, designer labels, mindfulness, and mediation. Virtually everything is for sale, including things that should never be commoditized, such as human rights.
There is enough drama out there in the world today to make anyone want to crawl into a hole and hide. So what’s a generation to do? The answer: #Resist. There are future generations to protect and vulnerable people to defend. As Nelson Mandela said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
Hope, fueled by action. That’s why we built Bridge2Act. The goal is to bridge the gap between sobering realities and small actions that people can take to make the world a better place. We hoped that the aggregate of these small deeds would build on each other to create something beautiful, inspiring, and impactful.
Through this process, we have been blown away by the impact of the individual contributor. With social invigoration enabling a generation of influencers to use their social star power to galvanize followers into action, we have witnessed the power these perfectly-curated personalities yield in providing a voice for the world’s most exposed.
We flipped the script, and focused on a generation of shoppable content that fights back. What if others used their channels as well to create content that promotes awareness and activism, simply and securely? It would be a masterpiece. Let’s point all our gimme-gimme tendencies to apps focused on furthering social good, progress, and equality. And yes, I am biased, since I co-founded a company that does just that, but there are others out there doing the same.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn partnered with Show of Force and PBS to create A Path Appears, which is a favorite of mine. They “provide a unique and essential narrative about making a difference in the world — and a roadmap to becoming a conscientious global citizen… [it] examines the struggles women face in the United States and abroad, and the inspiring individuals working with them to create effective solutions.”
The influence of celebrities has always been known, through things like ad campaigns and spokesmodels. However, lesser-known is when celebrities use their app-based notoriety to create awareness and solicit activism. We witnessed that firsthand last year on Giving Tuesday when we launched #IDreamOfChallenge at Bridge2Act. Through millions of social impressions and numerous donations, this group of amazing humans cultivated tremendous impact for over 40 nonprofits in 24 hours. Take HBO’s Ballers and Marvel’s Inhumans beauty Serinda Swan. Serinda has hundreds of thousands of followers and fans across her various social channels and her activism has always been a hallmark of her Hollywood brand.
While some celebs leverage philanthropy to promote their personal brands, others are aligned to causes fundamentally at their core. Serinda is one of the latter and she is not alone. Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Regina Hall, Eva Longoria and so many others have made activism part of their brand and it’s creating a significant opportunity for them to pay it forward in a way that strengthens their star appeal.
We are a generation that can move mountains. We start revolutions, topple governments (think: the Arab Spring), make and break stars, and promote equality from our phones. Why can’t we help the unfortunate while we are at it?
The essential questions become: will you be part of enacting and furthering the solutions when they present themselves? Will you take action when promoted and donate to incredible organizations doing work to create a better world for us all?
What will you do about it? This is your chance.
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.