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6/9 - This Week in Women: Young Minds, Foreign Policy and Courtroom Controversy

News

From Hollywood babies to teens making pretty impressive strides in science and technology, the youth had a majority on this week’s headlines. Meanwhile, Canada’s Foreign Affair minister announced somewhat shocking news for the typically tranquil territory and controversy came out of the courtroom to round out this week’s news in women to watch.


Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca and Carolina Baigorri invented a straw to detect date rape drugs

Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca and Carolina Baigorri. Courtesy of USA Today

What started as motivation to win a business competition, turned into a patentable product for these three high school students from Miami. Cappello, Roca and Baigorri realized that, although there was always discussion around date rape, there still ceased to be a tangible solution to prevent the problem. So, the three students explored the market for an easy device to carry around that would detect the most popular date rape drugs, gamma hydroxybutyric (GHB), Ketamine and Rohypnol, in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They originally proposed a piece of jewelry as their device-of-choice, however, they ended up with a straw—portable and relevant—that will turn blue once dipped in a drugged drink. Throughout their product development and entrepreneurial journey, not only did these three ladies develop a necessary product, but they became the first students from their school to win the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

Chrystia Freeland announced a shift for Canada’s foreign policy

In an effort to focus on national strength, rather than international allies, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, released that the country would be expanding its budget to increase military “hard power.” Freeland acknowledged the shift as a way to address “challenges that we’re facing right now with terrorism and broader public safety issues.” She also noted the shift in policy as a response to the United States’ unpredictability with global leadership, explaining that Canada shouldn’t be completely dependent on the alliance. This announcement comes as a more aggressive policy for the typically neutral Canadian state, which reflects Freeland’s personal stances on multilateralism and international regulations in moving Canada forward.

Chrystia Freeland. Courtesy of Yahoo

Kamala Harris was “shushed” and the Internet took notice

California Sen. Kamala Harris was in the midst of a line of questioning aimed at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during Wednesday night’s hearing on Russian intelligence, when Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr interrupted her by asking, “Will the senator suspend?” This was the first of many interjections by Burr throughout the hearing, which ultimately led Burr to divert questioning to Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Due to the fact that Harris was one of three women on the intelligence panel, the internet responded to Burr’s interjections as sexist. Sen. Elizabeth Warren revealed her alignment with this notion when she tweeted, "Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being "courteous" enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted.”

Amanda Southworth was one of the youngest attendees at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference

At 15 years old, Southworth has been coding for six years--self taught--and has built out two apps, AnxietyHelper and Verena that are geared toward helping young users manage their mental health, and to feel accepted as part of the LGBT community, respectively. These accolades are what landed the teenager a WWDC Scholarship; an award that recognizes “talented students and STEM organization members.” Along with this recognition, the scholarship grants winners access to the annual conference, thus, Southworth spent the week immersed in a world for which she left high school to pursue. “Now I do coding about five hours a day and schoolwork for about two hours of the day,” said Southworth, who made the change to be home schooled at 12 years old. "I'm looking forward to meeting people who do the same thing as me because everybody tells me I'm really crazy for like just dropping school and going for this with all of my might,” said Southworth on attending the event.

Amal Cooney gave birth to twins

The human rights lawyer, who managed to lock down the infamous bachelor, George Clooney, gave birth to twins on Tuesday morning. The twins, Ella and Alexander Clooney, were reported to be “healthy, happy and doing fine,” in a statement from one of the Clooney’s representatives. Amal Clooney first announced her pregnancy in February, not only to the surprise of the Clooney fans, but for the news of twins at her age of 39-years-old. Yet, along with the twins, Mrs. Clooney was also reported to be happy and healthy, while her husband on the other hand, was “sedated and should recover in a few days.”

Amal Clooney. Courtesy of Popsugar

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

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.