Let's go ahead and get something out the way. What comes to mind when I ask you to conjure an image of the classic “private investigator?" If I had to guess, I'd say that you're thinking of a man, maybe in a trench coat, hiding in the bushes while peering through binoculars to spy on some sort of social deviant.
You're picturing that because that's how film, television and literature defined the profession for hundreds of years. In fact, until I became more familiar with the industry I couldn't name one female PI character. A little research reminded me of the female PI pioneer Nancy Drew, and then I learned how ahead-of-her-time author Sue Grafton was writing about Kinsey Millhone in 1982.
Like these strong females, I also seek to solve the world's problems. When I moved into the entrepreneurial world, I promised I would take with me the values I cherished as I advocated for the world's most vulnerable children at a large international child welfare organization. If I was going to start a company, my stipulations were clear: it must solve a meaningful need for an underserved population, and whatever we do we must do it better than anyone else.
Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew
In terms of diversity and inclusion, I promised to cast a wide net to build a talented, passionate and diverse team. How else could we truly create change without different perspectives informing our decisions and direction? I knew that's what it would take to make us scalable and able to do the most good.
As a mom of five, I'm constantly reckoning with the need to raise five mindful, conscientious and kind children and the need to just let them be kids. It's a daily struggle but we match it the only way we know how and that's by modeling behaviors that we want them to emulate when it's time for them to go out into the world.
With three young girls at home, I can't wait for their turn to change the world. Every day, strong women are fighting for their future. Our young kids might have no memory of a fight for equality among men and women. I believe it's thoughts like this that keep us women-focused.
If I zoom in on my corner of the world and take a close look at the intersection of tech and private investigation, I see a wave coming. With thousands of private investigators in our network at Trustify, we're seeing a surge in female PIs. Right now we're at nearly 20 percent female, but research indicates that will continue to rise. A male-dominated industry for hundreds of years, soon to be shattered by women!
Then again, should we really be that surprised? A woman's natural instincts are perfect for solving complex and deeply personal issues. Perhaps the most important trait an investigator can have is empathy. And research points to the fact that women simply are more empathetic than men. When people come to a private investigator for help, they're feeling desperate. They've usually tried everything and are searching for peace of mind. You need to understand what they're going through, see how hard it must be to walk in their shoes, and commit yourself restoring relief to them.
And let's not forget a woman's innate ability to read a room, listen for cues, look for signs and follow her intuition. I saw one of our PIs locate a family's mentally ill missing son on the West Coast who went missing in Florida. She had little to no clues or leads to work with from the outset. She traced a minimal paper trail, talked to everyone, questioned a feeling and followed her gut. Trustify's PIs will tell you that there's nothing more satisfying than closing the loop for a client, especially when you've witnessed their grief and heartache firsthand.
We've created a career choice that's gratifying and flexible for anyone, but especially working moms looking to stay in the workforce, make a difference and create their own schedule. We only ask our PIs to do what they're best at, investigating. We handle finding new clients, collecting payment and other administrative duties. In return, they save our clients from whatever problems they're facing and serve as the face of Trustify across the country.
When I set out to start a first-of-its-kind company, I wanted to build something incredible and to do that you need to build a first-class team. As we were putting our team together at our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, I wanted top talent with diverse backgrounds, and I wanted to look beyond the people in our existing circles whenever possible. My husband, who is my Co-Founder, and I had met and worked with remarkable people over the years, but I knew we needed to look in other circles to find the right people for the job.
You need to be intentional about hiring in order to break the cycle and be exposed to new people. In a perfect world, Trustify would represent every gender, color, religion, and outlook. We're not there yet but we're getting closer every day. Based on a recent employee disclosure survey, 70 percent of our team identifies as female and 40 percent of our team is a person of color.
If 70 percent female sounds homogenous, then I'll remind you that we're a data-driven organization and research shows that female-led businesses are more profitable. We intentionally target females because we're willing to take a bet that productivity will be higher, culture will be stronger, workplace tensions will be decreased and revenue will increase.
It's really quite simple, if you value the women in your workplace then promote them. Don't just talk about it, demonstrate it with your actions.
Want to attract more women? Then forgo the office beer pong table (that never actually gets used) and offer a space designed with women in mind, including nursing-mother rooms. At our headquarters, we've been recognized by the DC & Maryland Breastfeeding Coalitions for our commitment to supporting working moms. Tech awards are great, but the working mom in me felt like Meryl at the Oscars when we were presented with that Gold Star award. Career high, hands down.
As important as it is for companies to commit to growing their female workforce, it's also incumbent among women to support each other in the workplace. Women believed in me before I even proved myself to anyone. I believe in women and the power of true mentorship as I have benefitted from the generosity of women who shared their time and insights and nurtured my own career development.
Try as we might, sometimes you hire the right person but for the wrong job. As a business owner, what you do from that point makes all the difference. The two most valuable traits in an employee are diligence and commitment to excellence. If I've found that in someone, I'll work hard to hold on to them and find a place and a role for them within the company where they will thrive.
Like never before, women are on the rise. Time's up on letting men take the lead. It's exhilarating to be at the intersection of two male-dominated industries where women are making their moves, leading with their voice and transforming the way business was once done.
And on the days when it's hard to see how the world is improving and that we, as women, are finally breaking through established good ol' boys clubs, let Trustify's team be an example. We're just getting started, we're thousands of people strong and we've reshaped a profession that was once only run by older, white males. If only Nancy Drew could see us now!
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.