There is most certainly power in numbers. This fact was curtly evinced this week by the revelations of Bill O'Reilly's multiple sexual harassment cases. Lisa Bloom, a civil rights lawyer, said this week that there are, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five but six," alleged sexual harassment cases against Bill O'Reilly.
And she, on behalf of her client Dr. Wendy Walsh, is calling for an independent investigation into the practices that allowed such cases to accumulate unnoticed over time.
Dr. Wendy Walsh is a psychologist who worked on O'Reilly's show “The O'Reilly Factor" as an expert on a 2013 segment called “Are We Crazy."
Walsh had aspirations of a more frequent contribution to FOX - the network the show is hosted on - and voiced these goals to O'Reilly. According to Walsh, the show host encouraged the possibility of an advancement in her career at a dinner one evening. When the dinner ended, Walsh said O'Reilly asked her back to his hotel suite. Upon her refusal, he turned “hostile," she said, and told her she could forget any advice he had given her. In short, he would not be aiding her with her career.
O'Reilly has been suffering an onslaught of bad publicity and an exodus of advertisers since this New York Times report was published last week, explicating the long history of sexual harassment throughout his career, and the pay-off culture rampant within FOX's ranks. In fact, just last year Roger Ailes, former CEO of the network, was fired for the alleged sexual assault against dozens of women. “The culture still lives on," says Bloom, even in the wake of his departure and the scandal attached. Thus, the reason she is calling for an indecent investigation.
Below, SWAAY talks to Bloom about her involvement in the case and her opinion about the sexual harassment O'Reilly has allegedly been committing for many years.
1. Tell us a little about your career - why law?
I've always had a big mouth and a passion to right social justice wrongs. In college I was national debating champion. What else was I going to do?
2. How was it coming up through the legal ranks as a woman? Did you encounter any difficulties along the way?
Of course. The usual gamut of old guys underestimating my intelligence, arrogant superiors sexually harassing me, a partner once saying to an old male client I was meeting with, "would you rather have a male attorney?" (The client said he was happy with me, thank you very much, and later I took the partner aside and told him that wasn't cool.)
Lisa Bloom(L) and Wendy Walsh(R). Photo courtesy of NY Daily NewsI complained about the sexual harassment each time of the three times I experienced it, either directly to the inappropriate [point of contact] or to Human Resources, and it always got resolved to my satisfaction. I insisted on it. I was nervous like anyone else. But I could not bear to think that if I did not complain, these guys would do it to other women who would be even more afraid than I was.
3. When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
After eight years hosting my own show on Court TV (2001-2009), I was ready to return to my hometown of Los Angeles, write books and start my own firm. Everywhere I've ever worked I thought I could manage the place better than the bosses were managing it. Now was my chance to see if that was true. I wanted to fight for justice for people and causes I believe in. Luckily my husband is a skilled, successful entrepreneur so he has always advised on the business side: when to hire, when to fire, when to take a new lease for a bigger office. I oversee the ten lawyers we have now, decide which cases to take, handle the big ones myself, and all the media in our many high profile cases, because that's tricky, and fun for me. It works for us.
"This network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America."
4. You've had a pretty lucrative career - what's your recipe for success?
5. You list Bill O'Reilly as a TV personality that has interviewed you - how is it now representing someone in a case against him?
Delightful. He is a despicable human being who has been exceedingly rude to me, and who has hurt many women. He deserves everything he is getting, from the New York Times exposing his many settlements, to my client Dr. Wendy Walsh and me speaking out, to advertisers fleeing. Karma's a bitch, Bill.
6. Have you dealt with sexual harassment cases in the past?
Yes, I've been doing discrimination and harassment cases for thirty years. I currently handle many sexual harassment cases. My law firm's core work is civil rights work: gender, race, LGBTQ rights, disability, you name it, we fight for it.
7. When did you and Ms. Walsh meet?
We both have appeared frequently on CNN and HLN, and I think we met there, years ago. We became friends. I was pleased to attend a charity event where she was honored for her domestic violence work, and she came as my date to an Emmy awards gala. We both have been single moms and believe in empowering women. So when a NY Times reporter asked if she'd tell her story, I encouraged her to do it, and promised I'd stand by her as she did. I couldn't be prouder of how she's handled herself.
8. Does Fox's ineptitude dealing with these cases suitably reflect the entertainment industry's stance on sexual harassment as a whole?
Sexual harassment is rampant in the entertainment industry, but Fox News is the worst I am aware of. Dozens and dozens of women, tens of millions in payouts, and no end in sight: until we make it end.
9. You said in a recent press conference that FOX believes it can simply pay off woman to keep harassers in their jobs - are other corporations indulging in this behavior?
Many companies pay sexual harassment settlements -- I've negotiated many, nothing wrong with that outcome. But nearly every company will fire a man who continues to sexually harass women after the first incident. There's just too much liability to keep him on.
10. How do the President's comments on O'Reilly's innocence affect your case?
Trump did not say he disbelieved the allegations -- he said that O'Reilly did nothing wrong. I think that was honest. Trump does not think sexual harassment is wrong. How disgusting that this man is President, that he stands for his fellow alleged harasser, instead of for the women of America. Trump is the most overtly misogynist president in my lifetime, maybe in all of US history. Hold on to those pussy hats, ladies. We're going to need them.
"I don't think Bill did anything wrong." -Donald Trump
11. What, in your opinion, should happen to O'Reilly and how can this case be used to set a precedent for workplace sexual harassment cases in the future?
He should be fired. That may happen. The women who complained and were then driven out should be brought back, and Fox News should apologize to all of them. That will never happen
If this powerful moneymaker is toppled because of his treatment of women, it will send a powerful message that women's rights matter. Stay tuned.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.