Let’s use the Weinstein moment to fight for laws that end wage gap & support health of women & families

If a woman would gladly watch a high-powered Hollywood executive play with himself, give him a massage or do whatever else Harvey Weinstein fantasized about, that would be between them—two consulting adults.

But Harvey Weinstein was not interested in consensual sex, and I doubt he was interested in sex at all. For him, it was all about power over women. He must be one sick pup—just as sick as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. Very insecure men who seem to feel threatened by all women and take every opportunity to use sex as a weapon to assert a superiority in power.

That these men are still allowed to play key management roles in large organizations in the 21st century seems as impossibly fantastic as the idea that enough Americans would vote for an inexperienced, ignorant and unbalanced failed businessman to enable him to win the Electoral College vote. The outing of these famous super-predators, the defeat of an eminently qualified woman in the Electoral College by one of them, and the widespread reports of badly-behaving men and rampant male chauvinism at many young technology companies all remind us that a virulent strain of misogyny still exists in the United States.

But also existing are the laws, and in most places, the corporate policies and procedures to shut down sexual harassment of women. What doesn’t exist all too often is the will. It doesn’t help that, like child molesters, the super-predator has a sixth sense about which potential victims are more vulnerable—the new, the naïve, the ignorant, those with emotional problems. The fact that there are often ready-made victims for sexual harassers makes it even more incumbent on organizations to clearly communicate that harassment of all types is illegal and will not be tolerated, no matter how rich, famous or connected the harasser is.

But in the hubbub about Weinstein’s disgusting behavior and the entertainment industry that enabled it for decades, let’s not forget that women face not just sexual harassment, but economic discrimination in the workplace. Women still make less than men for doing the same job, plus workplace rules often create a “Jim Crow” kind of situation, without the lynching and jailing—a set of laws that tend to favor men over women. For example, employers still are not required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who want or have to continue working and there are no national scheduling standards that balance employers’ desire for scheduling flexibility with the need of women (and some men) to be able to plan family necessities.

The issue of employment equality and workplace sexual harassment are related. We won’t solve one until we solve the other. Lower salaries and de facto discriminatory policies and procedures tell men that organizations don’t consider women to be their equal, a subtle but clear signal that women can be treated as objects, insulted or pressed for sexual favors. The lesser, more vulnerable human is always fair game.

My wife alerted me to a great organization, the National Partnership for Women and Families, which lobbies for new laws that expand opportunities for women and improve the well-being and economic security of families. In a March 2017 fact sheet, the National Partnership detailed five proposed laws that would help women achieve equality in the workplace (and I quote): http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/not-enough-family-friendly-policies.pdf

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and help eliminate the discriminatory pay practices that plague employed women.
  • The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and help ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working.
  • The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid leave insurance program to support workers and businesses when a new child arrives or a serious personal or family medical need arises.
  • The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn seven paid sick days to use to recover from illness, access preventive care or care for a sick family member.
  • The Schedules That Work Act would establish national fair scheduling standards that would help provide economic security for working families and enable workers to meet their responsibilities at home and on the job.

I urge readers to contact their Senators and Congressional Representatives and urge them to support these bills. Also get on the National Partnership website and educate yourself about all the issues affecting women in the workplace. You might even want to contribute.

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