HR & #MeToo: Where We Stand One Year Later

September 27, 2018 Sarah Mulcahy

Me Too Sign

Next week marks one year since actress and WorkHuman 2018 speaker Ashley Judd publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in a New York Times article written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Since then, #MeToo has empowered so many women to share their stories and expose dozens of powerful men of sexual misconduct. The movement isn’t losing momentum. Just this week, Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in jail for drugging and sexual assault.

But what progress, if any, has been made in the workplace – especially for people outside of the entertainment industry? Is HR doing enough to create safer, more equitable work environments?

The issue of sexual harassment is systemic, says Maya Raghu, WorkHuman 2018 speaker and senior counsel and director of workplace equality at the National Women’s Law Center. “Our work at the center is focused on the most vulnerable and marginalized people, particularly women of color and people in low-wage jobs. We haven’t been hearing those stories and voices about sexual harassment and assault, and it’s rampant in those industries. So we’re trying to center our work – and responses of communities, of workplaces, of the law – around their needs, which ultimately we feel will help everyone.”

Listen to our fascinating discussion with Maya in the latest episode of WorkHuman Radio, embedded at the top of this post and recorded at WorkHuman in Austin. Below are four of my favorite quotes from the interview:

  • On the laws surrounding sexual harassment and assault: “What I’ve been struck by over the last six months is people either aren’t aware of the rights that they have when it comes to this issue – particularly people who are working in low-wage jobs – or people think they are protected by the law when they are not. This happens a lot with people who are freelancers or independent contractors – they’re not covered by the law. There are huge gaps in the law in terms of who is covered and who isn’t.”
  • On HR’s role: “There’s a lot of distrust about internal company processes and HR. People see when you make a complaint, it disappears. You don’t know what happens to it or people aren’t responding quickly enough. There isn’t a real investigation. Managers brush people off or there’s retaliation against people who do come forward. HR might have the best intentions, but it’s not trickling down to the lower levels … There’s a lot of work to be done to build up that trust and create systems and transparency so that people understand the way it’s supposed to work and can see when it’s not working.”
  • On men as allies in culture change: “We’re all in this together and you can only make culture change if everyone is participating. Men have a huge role here to be allies in this. It can’t all be on women or LGBTQ folks or people of color. Part of what HR can help do is empower them to speak up and to intervene when they see things happening. Men challenging other men about their behavior is so powerful and so effective. That quick intervention can have a huge impact.”
  • On WorkHuman the movement: “What strikes me about WorkHuman is people here are interested in being change agents. They are supportive of helping people be their true selves and their whole selves in the workplace, which goes back to the theme of establishing dignity and respect in the workplace. That’s the best place – to see people for who they are and let them be those people in the workplace.”

We know there’s more work to be done when it comes to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp – and creating safer workplaces for both men and women. Stay tuned for more updates on sessions at WorkHuman 2019 where you can learn more about how to be a change agent in your organization.

About the Author

Sarah Mulcahy

Sarah is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman. When not writing and reading about all things culture, leadership, recognition, and appreciation, she enjoys iced coffee, running, and spending time with her daughters, Mabel and Eva.

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