Ever heard of the phrase, “if you want something done right, do it yourself?” Some of the best businesses exist because their founders saw a market for something based on an obstacle they encountered themselves.
Jodie Fox is one of those people who turned her frustration with shoe shopping into a business. Fox is considered to be a pioneer in the fashion-tech industry, but don’t mistake Fox for a shoe designer. Sure, she designed the shoes on her feet, but she’s in the business of making everyone a designer. You can think of her site as the complement of NikeiD. Shoes of Prey lets you design practically any type of shoe – except for sneakers – then those shoes are manufactured and shipped directly to you. Innovative, right?
Fox started the company with her then-husband and friend, and the company is still going strong, even though her marriage is no longer. A lawyer with an advertising background, Fox stood out immediately to investors. Fox stood out in another way as well; she was the only woman within her business, and a minority in that sense.
She realized that “seemingly innocuous” comments about, say, her appearance, could indeed have adverse effects.
According Fox, there was an instance that a potential investor’s very first words to her were “you look amazing.” Comments like these cause a professional barrier, but you can decide which direction this barrier faces. For example, it’s safe to assume that the potential investor with whom Fox met remained just that – a potential. He’s the one who destroyed such a professional opportunity, not Fox.
"We think about how awkward such situations become for women, but we should also consider how self-sabotaging such behavior is for the men who make such comments,” she says.
Jodie Fox In Her Stylish Shoes Of Prey. Photo credit: Zimbio
Recent research reveals “60% of women in the industry had faced unwanted sexual advances,” and many of them don’t report them for various reasons. Some don’t even acknowledge them, for fear of facing personally and professionally damaging repercussions. The pervasive culture of valuing a woman’s looks before her brains, and inadvertently treating her less professionally than male employees, contributes to the lack of female-focused resources, namely all-female venture capital funds.
The fact is that “female partners are more likely to invest in companies with female executives and three times more likely to invest in one with a female CEO.”
Unfortunately, there’s still a shortage of these exclusively female resources, so Fox and others with similar experiences have advice for founders who may find themselves in situations that resemble theirs.
"Earlier in my career, I would have dismissed this as an off-the-cuff slip up, but as I progress, I realize it’s these seemingly innocuous comments that contribute to creating barriers for women professionally , so we really have to pay attention to that.”
– Jodie Fox (From her personal Video)
Like Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So next time you feel like you’ve been put in an uncomfortable situation, realize that your reaction is in your hands, not the offender’s.
Photocredit: www. Refashion.co
| Photo By InStyle Magazine
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.