Fair is Fair

Meetings eat up the workday of most office employees.  But how efficient—and fair—are those meetings? Meetings often involve vague agendas, without a clear sense of purpose or outcome. When that problem of inefficiency happens meetings can feel like a long-winded story without a dramatic climax or pay-off. The story lumbers on until time runs out and everyone goes on to the next tedious meeting.

Beyond that problem, however, is another, ultimately even more corrosive problem: fairness. Often, meetings aren’t inclusive. Women in particular aren’t getting an equal chance to speak or, when they do, find themselves being sidelined. Men tend to speak 75% of the time, even though they rarely constitute 75% of the people in the room. Men also tend to interrupt women, co-opt their ideas, and leave them to do the “office housework,” i.e., things like taking meeting notes or bringing attendees refreshments. As a result, women can feel disregarded, disrespected and less motivated on the job, and who could blame them?

“Work smarter, not harder” has become a cliché. “Work more fairly” should take its place.

Why Gender Equity Is a Men’s Issue

Released today: episode #36 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson, the authors of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the WorkplaceListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

David Smith is Associate Professor of Sociology in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College. Brad Johnson is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy, and a Faculty Associated in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University.

This episode explores the experiences women have at work and how to improve matters, especially if male allies provide some help in changing office politics and how organizations behave. From situational awareness to acknowledging that sexual harassment is a man’s issue, so much can and should change. 

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

When Every Kiss Begins with Groping

Surprise and fear are closely aligned emotions because many a surprise is unwelcome and all surprises require adapting to strange, new circumstances. By now, sadly, many of the female employees of Sterling Jewelers are well past the surprise stage in recognizing that they inhabit a corporate culture rife with problems. A gender bias suit against the company goes all the way back to 2008, and involves a downright shocking 69,000 women joining in allegations focused on pay and promotion inequalities.

Some of the details coming to light now go far beyond those inequalities, into the territory of sexual harassment and, at times, even reports of rape. It apparently became common practice over the years for male managers at Sterling’s mandatory managers’ conference to be seen in swimming pools with topless female employees. Or for a woman who wanted a promotion to submit to “going to the big stage,” according to company lingo. At times, male managers would allegedly send scouting parties to the company’s stores to find female staffers to target for sex.

It should be no bouquet of flowers for Sterling that they’ve used arbitration to hold off settling the various charges for almost a decade by now.

Where was senior management during all of this? Joining in, it would seem. The allegations also accuse Sterling’s CEO, Mark Light, of demanding sexual favors and joining in the pool parties himself. Every corporate culture comes from the top, down. So it’s hard to take much solace in Sterling’s official denials, which emphasize that the bias allegations are separate from the almost 250 women and men who describe the company as a hotbed of sexual harassment.

It should be no bouquet of flowers for Sterling that they’ve used arbitration to hold off settling the various charges for almost a decade by now. Or that plenty of other companies also, regrettably, struggle with reports of gender issues. This is Sterling Jewelers, after all, the parent company of various brands, including Kay Jewelers – whose slogan is “Every kiss begins with Kay.” We should be thinking about romance, weddings, innocence, white dresses, and not female employees being groped.

Studies that have pitted male mice in battle have found that winning increases the secretion of testosterone and invites risk-taking. Winning makes the superior mice welcome returning to the place of their previous conquests. When asked if he was a man or a mouse, Groucho Marx said: “Give me a piece of cheese and you’ll find out.” Mark Light commands a salary of over $3.5 million and stock awards that exceed $4 million, but I guess that’s not enough to keep him from heading for the pool.