I was in Berlin a while ago, where I met one of Germany's most successful female business executives. She is 42, single and excels in her line of work. It was recommended by a friend that she join an online dating site if she wanted to find a suitable partner.
She proceeded to a site and meticulously answered all the questions that the site required such as age, job, salary level, and uploaded a photo and yes, she is very good looking.
The days went by, and she received less than a handful of responses in four weeks! She found the situation peculiar and decided to test whether the few responses had anything to do with her job/profile. She decided to change the text of her profile. Instead of presenting herself as an executive of a corporation, she wrote that she was a teacher and dramatically reduced her salary level by up to 1/10 of her actual salary. She did not change her profile image, and in one day she received more than 40 responses from potential suitors.
What does this say about women, power, and men?
An American study dated back in 2006 shows that many men do not want to spend their lives in a competitive relationship. Therefore, you can say that it is an emotional, not a rational, decision when men choose not to be with a more successful woman. So perhaps, it may have been her job that scared men off?
According to many men, successful women are charismatic, and they love to be around them, but they do not want these types of women to be their wives. Therefore, do men prefer passive women with bird brains? This same study indicates that “female intelligence might be threatening for heterosexual men sizing up a prospective partner." A while ago, I was fortunate to be invited to a Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in England. Almost 200 women attended the dinner—women whom you would most likely read about in Time and Fortune magazines. An unequaled wealth of knowledge and inspiration filled the room that evening.
Many of these women had so much edge, competence, and capital that they didn't feel as though they needed men. Let me make it clear that many were in a relationship with a man, but they sure didn't “need" one. This had me thinking have successful women realized that men are backing out, and as a result, decided to move forward with their success along? If so, then, have successful women decided to move forward without men?
The current economic empowerment of women across the world is one of the most incredible revolutions of the past 50 to 60 years. It is extraordinary because of the level of change it has caused in the traditional household: millions of people who were once reliant on men have taken control of their own economic fates.
As a result, many women are now claiming that “they don't need/want men." The number of single women turning to sperm donors to conceive a baby has risen. About 172,000 women per year in the United States use sperm in artificial insemination, a procedure with approximately a 38 percent success rate to have children, without men. What does it mean for a society when men and women no longer need one another to have children? Many critics say this trend could pose a threat to our society and welfare system. So, is it the men who choose to do without the women? Or is it the women who decide to do without the men?
The other day, I was in Sweden with one of the very few female top executives of big listed corporations. She is British, beautiful and brilliant. She is also married and a mother of twins. We sat there with a glass of wine and took a rest after a hectic day. We had, among other things, spent the evening in the company of some of Sweden's most progressive business women. We were wondering at the fact that although many were married, many more were single or divorced. But what they all did have in common was that they were, successful, intelligent and beautiful. I decided to figure out the reason for this.
During the last eight weeks, I have gathered material from and conducted short interviews with women from various places in Europe. Which later inspired my book "Busy Moms." I held a meeting with one of the most talented female executives in Denmark's financial sector. She was the last participant in my round of interviews. So here is my conclusion, which I hope you will look into more deeply.
1. Eight out of ten business women say men do not come on to them. Men like to be friends with them but do not see them as potential partners.
2. Four out of ten women I spoke to, believed that the reason is that men get scared off when they hear about their jobs and responsibilities. In other words, men immediately lose their interest when they hear about their success.
3. In Europe, many of these women have chosen not to have a large family because figures show that the more children women have, the lower the status they have in the job market.
4. One out of five I spoke to say they have decided to do without a family/children to focus on their careers.
Are women progressing at a faster rate than men?
In the olden days, the man provided for his family, while the woman's role was to stay at home and take care of the kids. Most often, the woman did not receive any further education aside from basic school, and therefore, there was no basis for women to enter the job market. Fortunately, this has changed over time. If the current trends continue, the traditional family structure will turn upside down, and the typical family will look quite different from what we are used to seeing.
Today, more girls than boys take further education. If this development continues, the man in the family will be far less successful, while the woman will hold more managerial positions or become lawyers, doctors, and business owners. And what consequences will that have on our family structures and the future job market?
What do you think is the reason for these trends? Do you think that the fact that more and more women have higher education than men will lead to a real problem in your country? Do you have some experiences you would like to share? Are men weak? Are women foolish for focusing so much on their careers? Or is the reason something completely different? Regardless, this has become an issue worth having a debate over.
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.