I was traveling in England when the recent scandal about the President’s Club Charity Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel hit the news. The event was a fundraiser for worthy U.K. organizations. It was for men only and the entertainment included 130 specially hired hostesses who dress in short, tight black dresses with high-heeled shoes. The Financial Times sent two women to work undercover. The article that followed explained that women at the event were groped, sexually harassed, and propositioned.
In the current #metoo climate, we could be witnessing a sea change regarding sex and the treatment of different sexes in business and politics.
We must sort out, in our own minds, the continuum of male-female relationships we consider acceptable in business. But, we cannot allow sexual predators. They should be identified and wrestled from positions of power. We should promote every workplace welcoming the silence breakers who come forward with questions, concerns, and fears about sexuality and the use of power in
Nevertheless, we should allow for the range of the human sexuality continuum that comes with male-female relationships (including friendship, flirting, and love). To partition genders would foster an oppressive workplace culture.
We also need reasonable organizational policies and practices. Ariel Roblin, KETV President and General Manager, was a keynote speaker at the spring Business Ethics Alliance Executive Breakfast. In her discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace, she stated that one of the best things an organization can do is hire male and female executives. This creates the best chance that a rank-and-file employee has someone in power to talk to.
Jane Miller, COO of Gallup, has a podcast about sexual harassment in which she discusses the importance of friendships at work yet the need for clear guard rails in male-female business relationships. Most importantly, Miller says that business leaders need to role-model the moral courage it takes to engage in trusting relationships while being able to walk away as a person, or a firm, when a relationship, though financially viable, is harassing or otherwise destructive. Whichever side of the pond you are on, Roblin and Miller make good human, and business, sense.
This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.