#MeToo Initiated Change — and Caused a Backlash We Didn’t See Coming

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#MeToo

It’s been nearly two years since the #MeToo movement became a focus of attention in the media, on Twitter and in our daily lives. In that time, awareness and open discussions about sexual harassment have increased significantly. As celebrities, corporate executives, and public figures have been identified and held accountable, in various ways, for their alleged acts of sexual harassment, hope bloomed that positive change was on the horizon for women across the country.

Change has come, particularly in the workplace, but sometimes in the form of backlash. Men, often fearful of being falsely accused of sexual harassment, are helping create a new kind of glass ceiling. Reluctance to hire an attractive woman, exclusion of women from work-related social situations (like travel or after-work drinks) and hesitance to hold meetings with a woman without having another person present are all forms of backlash from #MeToo that can hinder a woman’s career progress — or halt it altogether.

The numbers confirm this is taking place, and it’s more prevalent than anticipated. According to a study titled “Looking Ahead: How What We Know About Sexual Harassment Now Informs Us of the Future,” cited recently by Harvard Business Review, researchers surveyed a group of 152 men and 303 women in 2018. In thinking about what could happen, 16 percent of men and 11 percent of women agreed they are or would be more reluctant to hire attractive women. In terms of reluctance to hire women for jobs that require close interpersonal interactions with men, 15 percent of both men and women agreed.

When researchers posed these questions again to a different group of people a year later, in 2019, they were disappointed to find that some of the figures related to male respondents had increased. For example, 19 percent of men said they were reluctant to hire attractive women (versus 16 percent previously), and 21 percent of men said they were reluctant to hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions with men (versus 15 percent previously).

The study also found that, when asked about 19 specific behaviors, the men and women surveyed largely agreed on what constituted sexual harassment. So awareness exists about the forms sexual harassment can take in the workplace, including uninvited comments, conduct and behaviors that reference sex, gender or sexual orientation. Any of these behaviors can take place verbally, with hand gestures, through printed or electronic communications or images, or via inappropriate touching.

For women who have experienced sexual harassment, the road to holding supervisors and employers accountable is long and difficult. Documentation is critical. Cases are arbitrarily thrown out of court. Certain jurisdictions favor employers over employees. None of that has changed since the advent of the #MeToo movement. But that doesn’t mean justice isn’t worth fighting for. It is. And I’ll keep fighting to ensure that victims’ voices are heard.

Amanda A. Farahany

Amanda A. Farahany is a skilled Atlanta employment attorney and litigator who represents individual employees with claims related to sexual harassment, Family Medical Leave Act, discrimination, libel and overtime. She is managing partner at Barrett & Farahany, where she is dedicated to pursuing civil justice for employees, as well as providing consultation and support to management employees and executives. Amanda’s cases are regularly followed by the press. She seeks change for both individuals and society, has been recognized through numerous awards and achievements, and serves in many leadership roles. Additionally, Amanda is an adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School, teaching Advanced Trial Advocacy to third-year students. She can be reached at 404-238-7299 or https://www.justiceatwork.com/.
Womens Business Daily

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