Have you been seeing the hashtag #MeToo on your social media feeds lately? The second half of 2017 has seen an avalanche of sexual misconduct accusations and revelations of high-powered, public figures — in most every case perpetrated by males in the workplace. In response, women began posting on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #MeToo to express that they had also encountered a personal instance of sexual assault or harassment at work, no matter which industry they came from.
Soon, the hashtag took over social media platforms as woman after woman stepped forward to offer their own poignant, personal experiences, ultimately solidifying the idea that sexual harassment and outright assault is still rampant in the workplace. The movement also revealed that a number of notable male figures in a variety of industries — from film and media, to government, to Silicon Valley darlings — were culprits of sexual assault, or inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
Just yesterday, longtime NBC host Matt Lauer was fired for “inappropriate sexual conduct” in the workplace, following a complaint from a colleague. NBC News Chairman Andy Lack stated that he had read the detailed claim and had reason to believe that Lauer’s actions were not an isolated incident.
And Lauer wasn’t the only one paying the price for a crackdown of sexual assault in the workplace yesterday. Garrison Keillor, the former host and creator of famed radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” has also been fired over a complaint of “inappropriate relations” with a previous coworker. Minnesota Public Radio was informed of these allegations last month and has only recently taken that action.
In addition to the two men mentioned, Charlie Rose was accused of making crude sexual advances toward women who worked on his show (CBS suspended him) and John Lasseter, Pixar’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, recently announced that he too would be taking a six-month leave due to colleagues feeling “disrespected” and “uncomfortable.”
All in all, the #MeToo movement has triggered a wave of important and poignant attention to the issue of sexual assault in the workplace. And companies — and the men and women who lead them — must act swiftly when these accusations and claims arise. If they don’t, not only are they are tacitly supporting a culture that disrespects women, but they are putting their organizations in legal jeopardy. Neither of those outcomes is a recipe for business success.