There are people who accept things as they are, as they “should” be. Then, there are people, like Helya Mohammadian, who not only challenge things as they are, but they also try to add alternatives. Mohammadian is challenging how we look at underwear, starting with women. Before you say that there are plenty of innovators in underwear and that I should know this because I just wrote about one, hold on. First of all, there’s room for more than one innovator per industry. Secondly, Mohammadian found yet another gap that still needed to be filled, and she filled it.
"I we wanted to make their lives just a little easier by introducing underwear for women who live life on the go." - Helya Mohammadian, Founder of Slick Chicks
Mohammadian founded Slick Chicks as a solution to a problem that she had, realizing that this problem isn’t unique to her by any means: putting on and removing traditional underwear is inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. It’s annoying enough for people without physical constraints to do it, but for anyone else, it’s a legitimate safety hazard. And yet, it doesn’t have to be. Putting on Slick Chicks underwear should be familiar because it’s the same process as putting on a bra: simply snap the pieces together.
What truly sets Mohammadian apart from other entrepreneurs is that she wasn’t going into the endeavor as a “blissfully ignorant” ingenue; she knew exactly what she was doing every step of the way into scaling her business. Mohammadian used the technical skills she developed while at FIT to create the first prototype of the product. Once she found her manufacturers, which was a time-consuming and arduous process in itself, she knew specifically which questions to ask them.
Additionally, knowing her product intimately and having an understanding of the current supply chain proved to be another advantage for Mohammadian, who chose to have a direct-to-consumer business model. As a vertical retailer, she acknowledges that “building an online-only business has cost and distribution advantages, as opposed to brick and mortar,” but Mohammadian would ultimately “like to license and/or create partnerships with larger, well known brands.”
Beyond the product being innovative, it is empowering. Undergarments are personal. They cover what are known as our “private parts.” That’s why they’re also called “intimates.” Being able to change in and out of said “intimates” should be a “private” moment, and “it is a huge burden on one’s pride when you cannot even change your own intimates.” Slick Chicks further empowers women by working with the Homeless Period Project to support homeless women who are struggling when dealing with menstruation.
Mohammadian has a point: of the many challenges women – and people, in general – face on a daily basis, changing in and out of underwear shouldn’t be one of them. Can you imagine? Not having to take your tights off to change your underwear? Umm, why would you imagine when so many people loved the solution that they pledged more than Slick Chicks’ goal on Kickstarter?
Being able to change in and out of said “intimates” should be a “private” moment, and “it is a huge burden on one’s pride when you cannot even change your own intimates.”
(Our Full Interview with Helya Mohammadian is available here)
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.