Facebook exec warns of backlash against women

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says companies must put measures in place to protect women who speak out

Facebook exec warns of backlash against women
Women who speak up against sexual harassment in the workplace may face backlash in the form of limited opportunities, warned Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

“Doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect. It also means not isolating or ignoring them – and making access equal. Whether that means you take all your direct reports out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed,” she said in a Facebook post over the weekend.

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back.”

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Sandberg said she was cheering at the way people, for the first time, appear to hold perpetrators truly responsible for their deeds.

“This is a critical moment for anyone who faces unwanted sexual advances at work,” she wrote.  “Sexual harassment has been tolerated for far too long in the halls of government and companies large and small.”

Cheering is not enough, however, because sexual harassment is an issue of power. In every instance of harassment, the male perpetrators enjoyed greater power than the women they harassed, Sandberg said.

“We need to end the abuse of power imbalances due to gender – and race and ethnicity, too.”
She proposed that workplaces begin with clear principles and then institute policies to support these principles. They must, she said:
  1. Develop workplace training that sets the standard for respectful behaviour at work, so people understand right from the start what’s expected of them.
  2. Treat all claims – and the people who voice them – with seriousness, urgency, and respect.
  3. Create an investigation process that protects employees from stigma or retaliation.
  4. Follow a process that is fairly and consistently applied in every case, both for victims and those accused.
  5. Take swift and decisive action when wrongdoing has occurred.
  6. Make it clear that all employees have a role to play in keeping workplaces safe – and that enablers and failed gatekeepers are complicit when they stay silent or look the other way.
“It is my hope that this moment will lead to a stronger, more equitable workplace culture that treats women with more respect and affords them more opportunities,” she said.

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