Until we begin admitting and abolishing damaging behaviors, the safety and well-being of women and girls remains in peril. It should come as no surprise that the barriers to change are often embedded within the institution and culture within. Yet, despite the magnitude of harm, it is a topic that seems to enlist the least attention and consideration, barring the occasional media storm associated with a high-profile case.
The implosion of Miramax fueled by the revelations of the predatory behavior of its co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, is a difficult but explicit lesson of abusive behavior that goes unchallenged and, more often than not, tolerated from figures of power. While the extent of Mr. Weinstein's behavior is shocking, what is more outrageous is the level of collusion that took place around him to protect him from ever having to be held accountable for his actions, going back decades.
The narrative is more pervasive than we are comfortable acknowledging. There is a numbing cacophony of college campus rapes, sexual harassment scandals, servicewomen rendered powerless within the armed forces, and the countless instances of sexual abuse and allegations against high ranking political figures. Cultural acceptance and institutional obfuscation allow an environment where transgression go unchecked, forgiven or forgotten as soon as the political campaign flames die away.
What we seem to ignore, besides the victims, is the fact that the repercussions of such behaviors are devastating for society as a whole, regardless of whether we are affected on a personal level.
Sadly, this all occurs at a time when recognizable progress has been made. Research shows that as more women participate in the workforce and income inequality is reduced, women can be an engine of growth. They are a benefit to the labour force, a growth market as consumers, and an organizational catalyst as leaders. The McKinsey Global Institute research finds that if women were to participate in the economy identically to men, they could add as much as $28 trillion or 26 percent to annual global GDP in 2025. Achieving this requires a comprehensive approach from the public sector, the private sector and international.
However, advancements in employment, income equity and leadership representation are incremental. The struggle in moving forward is compounded by the efforts and energy necessary to maintain the gains achieved. Sustaining gains may require greater effort and slow the fast pace of progress. Ultimately improvements in governance, enforcing legislation and most importantly, our value systems will determine at what pace parity enabling environments form and mature.
Three things we believe need further attention:
- Review of existing laws and regulations promoting gender equity and forceful enforcement will be as important as new legislation.
- Increased investments in social infrastructures that support provision of social services to women and girls, are essential to maintaining and increasing opportunities for women.
- Awareness and confrontation of the danger of resistance, avoidance, and often collusion when undermining actions are taken against women, is paramount; as is holding those colluding to protect perpetrators accountable.
What happened at Miramax is a harsh reminder that we must stop treating the danger of collusion as we treat our new years’ resolutions. If we do not focus on a change in approaches and confronting damaging authoritative practices, we will continue to see resistance and collusion eat away at hard-won gains. We recognize a less than optimal behavior, we see a clear path to correcting it, we set out to do so, with the best of intentions, then life takes over and we forget, or ignore it until the next crisis hits.