Presently the issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and criminal action are being blended into a new age McCarthyism under the guise of a #MeToo. Standing at the intersection of dangerous roads here, I recently consoled a friend who was walked to the door at his office the week before the holidays for possessing some visual erotic art on his work computer. A veteran who served 3 terms and a formidable professional leader in the aeronautics industry, his career was brought to a standstill with no consideration provided for his service to the company and the 3 young children he supports. He lost his pension, was extended no severance pay and his family is the victim of societal bullying in the community they reside – they are being forced to move.
Can someone please tell me when we decided that women were going to be the moral compasses for the offices we work in? And when did I vote for an office atmosphere where discussing sexuality was a no-fly zone?
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Last night, had I been at the Globes, I would have donned a red gown as I am more than a gender, I am a member of a community as a whole committed to a better place. A hard-working entrepreneur, gender is not, nor has it ever been a performance indicator for me. This said, I work in a male dominated industry and while we have 75 clients presently, only 2 are run by female CEOs – and prior to 3 years ago: we had no female clients in a business that is 17 years old this year.
Now let’s really discuss the elephant in the room here and that’s the overall one of sex in business. Good for the heart, head and soul – I believe that sex is one of the most powerful tools of life. Personally speaking, some of my best business inspirations and work has been as a result of tensions propagated through sexual energy. Who says an asexual workplace is a better place? Where’s passion in this process? Let’s review this debate as professionals, because no one should apologize for discussing fertility treatments with a work associate if they have expressed an interest…
- Discrimination is different from Sexual Harassment. In the 90’s when I was hired to become the VP of Marketing for what was at the time a NYSE listed entertainment company, I still recall when I was offered the job with the line: “I am okay with the fact that you are a woman.” I did not make a smart-ass comment, a single parent with 2 children, I smiled politely and took the job – grateful for the work. The condition of discrimination remains today and is not gender specific. Often applied to race, culture and how we physically appear; we must work as a society to defeat this together.
- Sexual Harassment is not the same as being Harassed. I still recall the moment in time when a well-known oil and gas analyst on a road trip to Tunisia told me that he was going “to spit roast me with his dick” in front of a good solid two dozen members of the financial community. I remember how time slowed down for me as I watched the all-male group and wondered “is anyone going to defend me?” Asked a few gentlemen in the group later “why didn’t you say something?” — their response was the same: “He’s a great analyst.” And the truth is in fact that there is a big difference between being harassed and dealing with an asshole than being the victim of sexual harassment. Allow me to make a confession — some harassed/harassment experiences provided me with opportunities to behave ‘unprofessionally’. For instance, sexually illicit comments have providing me with public permission to slap a few people across the face. Additionally, the glass or two of wine that I poured on more than a few laps was indeed an outlet for some work frustration. And finally, my personal favorite was stopping a bus in the backwoods of Armenia by the side of the road and telling a man that kept making such sexually directed statements to me that he could find his own fkn way home….note that these are NOT examples of sexual harassment, but being harassed. Now the men who have harassed me have offered me ridiculous things that ranged from a Mercedes and a flat in London to $5 million in cash and of course, a job acceleration. I handled it the way we should train everyone in business, which is to #justsayno or #justsayyes if you deem these offers to coincide with your life goals.
- Criminal Action is not Sexual Harassment. Now many of these stories in the news today are really criminal action. Having dealt with far too many friends who have been assaulted, molested and raped over the years, I can assure you that there is a significant difference between criminal action and sexual harassment. Me? there was a moment in time in Denver when the CEO of a company I was working with (2003) claimed that he needed to see the marketing materials that had been cleverly delivered to my room who attempted to rape me. Now that was an intended criminal action, but because I got away successfully, no action could be taken. After all — evidence is needed to convict. Upset, it took me a few months to recover, and to this day I am sure this man has done this to others, so if today’s media attention places greater pressure on the criminal justice system to start taking more preventative actions, than hallelujah! The goal after all is to rid society of these predators and bring these criminal actions to an end. But is starts with more communication and increasing the fear of discussions on sex everywhere will only push this **** back into closets where it does not belong.
My point in writing this today is to applaud the fact that we want to continue discussions on sexual pressures in the workforce, but we cannot apply the standards of today on the actions of the past. In the entertainment business for nearly a decade in the 90s, I participated in an industry where we encouraged rock stars to indulge in sexual freedoms and lines were unquestionably crossed. We have applauded movie stars that act out their sexual fantasies, and are we really surprised that they have blurred their lines between fantasy and reality?
Watch the latest HBO series, the integration of sexual interactions in any business series is necessary to engage viewers. After all, we tell the CEOs and the billionaires that they are the rock stars of today, and that NO rules apply to them. This said, the joining together of forces for the deployment of morality standards in the office is not creating a conducive environment for debate when united only by gender. Listening to the women translated through mainstream media its clear to me that we haven’t defined what sexual harassment is. I will tell you what it is. When my male masseuse at a local hotel was crying after the owners of the hotel asked him to go to the room of a well known star, he felt — new to Canada as an Immigrant that if he didn’t ‘finish him off’ he would lose his job as the star was a friend of the owners, now this was indeed an example. We cannot shut down those requesting evidence and a formula to convict that makes sense — beyond he said/she said. This literally applies to too many shades of grey, and how we can work well together and prosper for the benefit of ourselves, our families and society when this many mixed signals are being sent?
For the record, I am in the debate as no one should be forced to provide sexual favors for the advancement of anything, but I am requesting that the gender walls be torn down and a formula be advanced on what proves sexual harassment between “I think his hand brushed my boob” and convicting via social media. Thank you to the women who lead the media march but lets remember that sexual harassment applies to everyone.
An accomplished entrepreneur and corporate finance professional, Tracy Weslosky is the CEO for InvestorIntel Corp. and the VP of Business Development for Bellotti Capital Partners ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>