Over the past month, revelations of sexual harassment and abuse have filled our newsfeeds day by day. It all began with the bombshell New York Times story exposing entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual assault, including the rape of actress Rose McGowan.
Allegations of sexual harassment took down former ABC News political director and popular political journalist Mark Halperin, NPR head news official Michael Oreskes, Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele, and Amazon Studios executive Roy Price among a multitude of others.
The unprecedented purge of men in leadership positions has led to numerous job openings in these companies, along with questions on who should fill them. For example, The Weinstein Company, Weinstein’s prolific movie studio, faces existential questions about the future of the company after Weinstein was fired and three board members, all men, resigned. There is a chance for many companies, such as NPR, Vox, and Amazon Studios, in addition to The Weinstein Company, to right the wrongs of their accused leaders and remaining executives who allowed rumors and allegations of sexual assault to go unchecked for so long.
These companies should use their newly-open leadership positions to add diversity to their companies by hiring highly-qualified women. There is a plethora of women who have faced discrimination and who have not had a proper chance to advance.
At S&P 500 companies, women make up only 25 percent of executive and senior-level officials, hold only 20 percent of board seats, and are 6 percent of CEO’s. Women made up just 17 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors who worked on the 250 top-grossing domestic films of 2016. In news media, women receive 38 percent of byline and other credits in print, TV, and wire news. At ABC, CBS, and NBC combined, men report three times a much news as women, while work by women anchors, field reporters, and correspondents have declined.
Companies such as Vox, NPR, and The Weinstein Company are major cultural trend-setters, with far-reaching influence. For many people, these companies publish the news they consume and the movies they watch. The influence of Mark Halperin’s highly-touted books about the 2008 and 2012 elections cannot be understated. Halperin’s book Game Change, an insider tell-all of the 2008 election, is still widely used today to evaluate that election. These works contribute to millions of American’s views of Washington political culture.
With more women in control of our news and entertainment trend-setters, our culture will ideally be able to stray away from a man-centered society and diversify the way we take in politics, TV shows, and movies. In addition to changing our culture, having more women in leadership would lower the 48% percent of currently employed women in the United States who say they have personally experienced an unwelcome sexual advance or verbal or physical harassment at work.
There are a few ways in which women in leadership positions can help lower sexual assault statistics in the workplace. When there are no, or a limited number of, women in positions of power, workers can begin to see women as inferior professionally and socially. For example, notoriously aggressive Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June after reports of sexual harassment in the company’s workplace environment. Start-up culture can often be loose with rules and unregulated by central management, which seems to have contributed to Uber’s unhealthy workplace culture.
Furthermore, women in leadership know all too well the everyday issues with sexual mistreatment that other women feel in their jobs and would be less likely to allow such behavior develop under their leadership.
There is an opportunity at hand for companies to atone for their past failures to properly deal with sexual abuse; however, there must be retribution in order to gain trust back from consumers.
In addition to publicizing and taking down men who committed horrific acts under unchecked power, such as Harvey Weinstein, women who have courageously shared their traumatizing stories of sexual mistreatment will now have the opportunity to contribute to the long-awaited ascent of females into leadership positions.