Bonnie-Jill Laflin, Ageless
NBA Scout, Sportscaster, and Founder of Hounds and Heroes
In the all-male realm of the NBA, Bonnie Jill-Laflin became the first-ever and only female NBA scout after years of dealing with the onus of the perpetual “boy’s club.” Adding to this gender disadvantage was her previous career in modeling and cheerleading which, she says, created further barriers between herself and her male counterparts. “The stereotypes of being the first female brought on a lot of scrutiny, judgement and jealousy,” she remarks, adding that it was ultimately this gender-based bias that pushed her to get where no woman has gone before. She shoots, she scores!
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I've been in love with sports since I was a child and would attend games with my father from baseball to football to basketball. I knew I would make sports a part of my life and career. My biggest professional achievement is the honor of being the first and only female scout in the NBA. I am also incredibly proud of my non-profit organization, Hounds and Heroes. My charity combines both my passions of animal welfare and supporting our troops.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
The stereotypes associated with being the first female brought on a lot of scrutiny, judgement and jealousy. From bad write ups in the media to dealing with the bad attitudes in the workplace. This was only made more intense because of my background as a model and NFL/NBA cheerleader, in that many people made the assumption that I was hired for my looks, rather than my knowledge of both the game, players and the business of the NBA.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
Having to constantly deal with this until I was accepted by the "boys club". One of the few humorous stories to come from it was when I was at a game for the Lakers' Developmental Team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders where I was the assistant GM.
The players were all throwing their usual smack talk around, when everyone heard, "Oh yeah? Well, our boss is cuter than your boss." It wasn’t exactly the kind of attention I was looking for, but in retrospect, it was pretty funny.
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
I did the job. Seriously. I worked harder and longer hours. I traveled to as many colleges as I could and I dug through every player in the country until I could find those who would not only play well, but could fit into the triangle offense, culture and mindframe unique to the then-World Champion Lakers Organization. I met with sports reporters and writers who started the interviews with the intent to dismiss me and demonstrated that I knew the job until they changed their minds. I trusted that the people who hired me (namely Dr. Jerry Buss, Jeanie Buss and our GM Mitch Kupchak) would remember WHY they had hired me and would let me do my job. And they did. They believed in me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Never give up on your dreams and push harder to prove the skeptics wrong...those people should give you the drive to want to succeed. You should never give up no matter how hard it gets, you must believe in the end something beautiful will happen and it will all be worth it. Regardless of gender you can do whatever you put your mind to. Don't Dream It..Be It!!!
Laflin and co.
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.