With powerful new movements such as the #MeToo movement helping to resurface decades-old issues of sexual harassment and power imbalance within the workplace, the fight for women’s rights is reshaping the world as we know it. From Fortune 500 companies to governments to non-profit organizations, women around the globe are coming together to demonstrate to that the equality of women at home, in the workplace and in society is not only beneficial for both men and women, but also vital to the progress of the human race as we move towards a future of inclusivity, diversity and most of all, peace.  The end of forced arbitration is essential. At the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice-President of Business Development at Microsoft, explained how in the U.S. today, some 60 million Americans have a provision in their contract that states that if an employee raises a sexual harassment claim, they must go through private arbitration. Microsoft was the first Fortune 100 company to do away with forced arbitration. While any forced arbitration clauses within Microsoft had never been enforced, in order to create a statement for their employees and show support for social movements such as the #MeToo movement, Microsoft became the first Fortune 100 company to remove the forced arbitration clause from all employee contracts. Legislation is being discussed to do away with forced arbitration. While legislation is being discussed to outlaw forced arbitration, it is important for all companies to do away with the practice first in order to not only demonstrate support for their employees, but to also lend support to the legislation itself.

“Not only should we be changing [women’s rights] because it’s the right thing to do; there’s a business impact to this.” –Peggy Johnson

Government policies can be used to fight against gender-based violence. Maryam Mosef—Minister of Status of Women in Canada—detailed how government campaigns can affect the lives of women throughout an entire country. Issues of violence aren’t new. While renewed interest in gender-based violence and harassment have brought much-needed attention to the topic, these issues of violence have been around for centuries—as has the fight against gender-based violence. As such, Maryam Mosef and the government of Canada have pledged to honor the contribution of those who fought before them, to keep listening to their collective wisdom and to invest in the efforts they began decades ago. The Canadian government has created the first gender-based violence strategy. After collecting first-hand stories of gender-based violence and harassment by women throughout Canada, the Canadian government has created an initiative to tackle these issues by focusing on prevention, support for survivors and their families and a renewed focus and investment in a more responsive legal and justice system.

“The greatest barrier to addressing the wage gap is inequality, and the greatest barrier to achieving equality for women and gender diverse peoples is gender-based violence.” –Maryam Mosef

Advertising campaigns can also be used to fight against sexual harassment.  The Ad Council, currently led by Lisa Sherman, was created to convene the best and brightest from advertising, marketing and communications in order to raise awareness and educate people on the most pressing and important social issues of today—such as sexual harassment. Advertising campaign “That’s Harassment” is aiming to end sexual harassment. In order to raise awareness on sexual harassment in all forms, the Ad Council has partnered with actor David Schwimmer to create “That’s Harassment”, a campaign aimed at filming reenactments of real accounts of sexual harassment in an effort to further educate women and bystanders in a more concrete way on what constitutes sexual harassment. Media is beginning to show women in a more diverse way. While traditional media aimed to advertise stereotypes about women, today’s changing social climate has pressured new media to reflect the reality that women are very diverse—and therefore, leaders in media and business should make sure to continue to promote the diversity of women.

“We should continue to put images, positive and empowering images, of women out there for our young daughters to see and to say for themselves, ‘if I can see her I can be her.’” –Lisa Sherman

Sexual harassment affects not only gender, but also economic inequality. Winnie Byanyima, Executive director of Oxfam International, describes how in order to end violence against women, it is crucial to tackle economic inequality first. There are social norms that exist to justify the economic exploitation of women. After interviewing housekeepers from both developed and developing countries, Winnie and her team at Oxfam found that all women interviewed had not only faced sexual harassment or known someone who had faced sexual harassment, but that many of these women also suffered physical abuses as well. With an industry-wide problem of sexual harassment and abuse tied to gender-based economic inequality, it is important that both economic exploitation and gender-based violence are addressed simultaneously. There is much that needs to be done to end sexual harassment. Studies from the World Bank revealed that 155 countries currently have at least one law that discriminates against women in the economy—and it is vital that these laws be revoked. Similarly, it is crucial that we tackle the social norms, beliefs and expectations that justify sexual abuse and exploitation in the workplace. You cannot challenge sexual harassment without first putting women in positions of power. Perhaps most importantly, we must bring women into the decision-making process at all levels in positions equal to men, whether it is in parliament, at home, in school or at work in order to end instances of sexual harassment and abuse.

“It’s so important to tackle economic inequality in order to end violence against women—you have to tackle both together.” –Winnie Byanyima

Controversial research suggests that women may be more altruistic leaders than men. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at Berkeley, suggests that it is differences in behavior and psychology between genders that cause people in positions of power to react to their power differently. Power incapacitates your frontal lobe. According to a study from Berkeley where both expensive and affordable cars were observed approaching a pedestrian zone, affordable cars stopped for pedestrians 100% of the time while expensive cars stopped only 46% of the time, a finding that lends to the theory that power (in this case power tied to wealth) makes people focus more on the self and less on other people, leading to a decrease in the ability to empathize. Power reveals your stronger tendencies. While many researchers subscribe to the theory that power leads to abuse, Robert Caro suggests that power actually reveals your stronger innate tendencies, such as an amplified sense of arousal, risk-taking and aggressive behavior in men in positions of power—and conversely in women, an amplified tendency to be more collaborative, cooperative and empathetic. We need to highlight leadership qualities beyond aggressiveness and assertiveness. While leadership qualities tend to lean towards more male-dominated traits such as aggressiveness, it is possible for men to be taught skills such as empathy and cooperation in order to amplify those skills instead when in positions of power.

“The model of power is really changing pretty dynamically in many different spheres—it’s becoming more horizontal and its collaborative.” –Dacher Keltner


Winona Roylance
Winona Roylance serves as a contributing editor and Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.