How The #MeToo Movement Affects Leadership Development
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#MeToo – is a much-required movement to bring forward the horrors faced by women at the hands of abusive men who wear a mask of dignity in front of the world. While the movement is catching steam in India with stories predominantly from the film industry coming out on social media, it is a movement which needs a voice in every sector and workplace.
The key is to deal with this issue with the sensitivity required. To do that, it is critical to understand that both the victim and the accused need to be treated with sensitivity. Calling the victim a liar or an opportunist and questioning the intent of why they are coming out and sharing their story a significant while after the incident is simply unacceptable. Similarly, labelling the accused as a sex offender without a thorough and fair investigation can be devastating for their career, family and reputation. Putting both the victim and the accused on trial, whether it’s on social or mainstream media, is simply irresponsible.
The challenge at the core of the issue of sexual harassment is deeper than what meets the eye. It reflects a mindset in our society where a person in power or one of a particular gender believes that they can get away with violating another’s space and dignity.
While as a society at a macro level, this mindset of a superior and inferior gender will not change until we stop celebrating the birth of a son and regret that of a daughter in every household. We also need our education system to introduce the topic of sex education at an early age to change the neuro-association of “sex = taboo” which we all grew up with so that people will instead see it as a mere biological process, undeserving of shame.
How to Address The Issue
In the context of a workplace, organisations have to address this issue of sexual harassment proactively and constantly, rather than being reactive to the #MeToo movement. Having said that now is the apt time for organisations that have not already done so to ride on this wave of #MeToo and create interventions to address such issues by running internal communication campaigns. Organisations can also invest in training and sensitisation initiatives and setting up a mechanism for escalating and investigating complaints in a manner which is fair and confidential.
Another necessary step for organisations to take is to develop and train competent women for leadership positions. Simply appointing women to higher levels through quotas and reservations, however, is not the right way to achieve this goal, as it only serves to kill merit and in the long term, is harmful to the company because it creates a class of ‘diversity hires’. The real route to making #MeToo redundant, is for organisations to take proactive measures by providing training and coaching interventions to potential women leaders to earn their place in leadership roles. This will ensure there is a fair but meritorious distribution of gender representation across the leadership pool of the organisation. #MeToo was inevitable, but the movement can only go so far because it is the symptom of a decades-old problem. Real change will only come when we create an environment of equality and fairness for everyone, where the truth always prevails.