Men exert their power in more and less subtle ways. This week we were reminded of the less subtle.
The conversations and research that led to the founding of Milk centered on how female power is often stifled and misunderstood. In my experience, that was often subtle. It was a woman not thought of for the speaking role or promotion. It was a woman being told she needed to imitate masculine behavior to be taken seriously.
I am extremely fortunate that I have little experience with the more overt ways that the patriarchy can hold a woman back. But over the last two years that we have been running Milk and building this community, I have heard story after story of women who had to overcome aggression, harassment, and even assault from men, just to progress their careers and work towards their goals. And I've heard from many of you who cite this as the top factor in why we don't see more women at the top of organizations. Too often, a woman is made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their workplaces and faced with the burden of attempting to report and/or find ways to stop the behavior, or just stay and bear it. And understandably, many will decide it's better to leave. These decisions may mean sacrificing career opportunities.
So this week's news hit me especially hard, as I'm sure it did many of you. It made me consider how the decades long behavior of a major figure -- behavior apparently known to many -- was enabled for so many years without consequences. And I wondered how many women's stories we didn't hear. The women who didn't have the means to resist, or the women who chose to leave the industry, who adjusted their lives, and gave up their ambitions, instead of deal with him and others surely still getting away with the same behavior. It made me wonder how many more men there are like Harvey Weinstein in the media industry and other industries, men who exert their power in more and less subtle ways and prevent women from progressing as they desire.
How many women gave up on their ambitions in journalism or tech or politics because of the behavior we now know has been common at places like Fox News and Uber?
Recently, at a dinner with a group of smart ambitious women, someone told a story of how she experienced harassment by a man in her office. Of the 12 women in the room, 5 had similar stories. Some reported the behavior and some switched groups to get away from the predators.
With so few of these incidents being reported, it's difficult to quantify how much this kind of experience is impacting women overall. But when I see statistics including how women make up only 6 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs, and that more than half of today's female MBA graduates will leave the work force within 10 years, I get the feeling that there's part of the story we still don't understand.
Beyond amazing reporting from places like The New York Times, how can we disrupt this particular version of male power?
I'm looking for ideas. If you have any, reach out. The Milk Slack channel is open for this or email me directly. Let's use this space to brainstorm, propose new ideas, and iterate together. There's a lot to be angry and frustrated and confused about these days. But this space was designed to be forward looking and solution oriented.As hard as it is right now, I feel this need more than ever and I still don't know of a group of people more capable of taking this on than you.