Eboni Williams, 34
Fox News Host and Author
Unafraid to unabashedly share her opinion on the airwaves, Fox News Host, Eboni Williams, is certainly a woman to watch. Raised by a single mom in Charlotte, Williams faced a litany of obstacles throughout her career, not least that she was a strong, opinionated black woman, attributes which she says were hurled her way as derogatory. ”Society might have its rules and expectations of you, reject them at every turn and insist upon your own exceptionalism,” she says.
This exceptionalism has lead to her hosting her own radio show, releasing her book PRETTY POWERFUL: Appearance, Substance & Success and contributing her inspiring message to the world.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
Since I was a child I had a loud voice and strong opinion, so I thought it best to put it to productive use. As a litigator, multimedia host and now as an author, I'm privileged to lend my voice to the voiceless and otherwise empower women, men and children who otherwise might not be heard.
My greatest achievement has been hosting a show on the #1 cable news network while hosting a talk radio show and releasing a bestselling book at the same time. I never considered myself a multi-tasker, but I became one in 2017
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
As I write in the 'Mean Girls' chapter of my book, I was told I was too young, too strong in my opinion and black...all reasons I wouldn't be able to be hired by Fox News or able to host a show. All proved ignorantly wrong.
All throughout my life false narratives of society and media said as an only child to a single, high school educated mom, I would repeat her pattern of a struggling single black mom. She made sure I didn't and we worked to reject that stereotypical noise at every turn.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
Shirley Chisholm is an iconic role model of mine. She was the first black woman to serve in the US congress and she said if they don't invite you to the table, bring your own chair and pull up a seat. I LOVE bringing my own chair and crashing the party.
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
I SWAAYed the narrative by having key individuals (a strong mom, teachers, community members) that nourished my talent and told me I could do ANYTHING I worked for. I was never talked to about glass ceilings or limitations...only personal ambition. Narratives are all about social norms and "rules." In a world of other people's "rules" I've always elected to be my own exception.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Bet on yourself. Don't concern yourself with a million "no's" only focus on the one "YES" that you need. Society might have its rules and expectations of you, reject them at every turn and insist upon your own exceptionalism.
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.