This post focuses on the first tenet of the Pledge: We commit to cultivating an open and inclusive culture for employees to feel comfortable coming forward should an incident occur.
The Pledge – We commit to:
- Cultivating an open and inclusive culture for employees to feel comfortable coming forward when an incident occurs.
- Believing the person coming forward, investigating the incident, and taking appropriate disciplinary action based on the findings.
- Not forcing or mandating silence or confidentiality for the person coming forward.
- Removing relationships and cutting contracts with companies that perpetuate harm.
Why is this tenet important?
The first tenet comes from a prominent but painful chapter in American history: not being believed. In 2018, Stop Street Harassment conducted a poll in which 81% of women and 43% of men report experiencing a form of sexual harassment. While these numbers were surprising at the time, more recent global findings are a bit more harrowing. The death of Sarah Everard in the UK sparked polls that show 97% of women in the UK experience sexual harassment. We know not all harassment cases occur at work. However, the fact that most of these cases will go unreported shows a massive gap in our culture to help people navigate and overcome these issues. Reporting is a small part of the issue. We must remember that when we ask individuals to report, over 97% of the people who cause harm go free.
In 2019, a survey conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation showed that 1 in 3 women experienced sexual harassment at work. Still, of the estimated 5 million cases of women experiencing this harassment, approximately 9,200 claims were reported. This data is staggering. What is even harder to digest is that most women experience this treatment from individuals that wield power over them and their positions. This knowledge makes reporting an incident even trickier than expected as companies tend to protect leaders or people in higher ranking positions within their organization. A culture that encourages incident reporting and is open about outcomes will allow for future reporting and problem-solving. It is important to make these behaviors more visible and to enforce their significance in the company culture.
Where do I start?
It may feel like information overload because the first tenet revolves around a vast topic: culture. This information begs the question: what is culture, and how do you create or change it? Your company may have a mission statement, core values, human resources handbook, or maybe even a catchphrase that you employ for marketing or internal meetings. While these items can contribute to the culture, they only matter if leadership consistently and continuously reminds employees what is important to the organization. Most importantly, the organization demonstrates these values. Bottom line: culture is what you do, not what you say.
Why does this matter?
There are countless studies in the marketplace detailing the best paths forward for creating a culture that excites employees. As the workforce becomes increasingly saturated with Millennials and Gen Z, the focus on culture will become even more significant. Articles from Forbes to Harvard Business Review and Deloitte attest to younger generations’ need for a diverse and inclusive environment.
Since 2020 companies have an increased focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion). Like the 2017 push to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace post the #metoo era, employees hope that companies are willing to put their money and effort where their mouth is. Unfortunately, many companies make the process harder to come forward to preserve the company’s reputation. This preservation is typically at the expense of the experience and livelihoods of their employees. Even when it is not difficult to report, companies are finding ways to silence employees to prevent the tarnishing of their brand (more on this topic in later posts).
Despite these recent events in public history, employees are still distrustful of companies. While efforts are underway to correct this behavior, employees need more reassurance that their company practices their values. DEI, women in leadership, and an inclusive work environment are the bare minimum to attract talent. However, attracting talent is step one; if your company is not actively creating an environment where employees are valued, heard, and are purpose-driven, retention suffers.
Check out Questions to Consider on our Resources page to start evaluating your own company culture.