“The future will belong to those subjects in whom there is something feminine.”
The 2020 International Women’s Day campaign emphasizes that gender equality is not only a female issue; it is also an economic one. A multitude of research backs up this claim — for example, The World Bank (2018) alone has found that, in 141 countries, the loss in capital wealth caused by gender inequality is approximately $160.2 trillion. Research (2017) conducted by McKinsey & Co., has shown that companies with equal boardrooms were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits.
However, as of June 2019, only 20.4% of board seats in Russell 3000 companies were held by women. While there are numerous facets at play in this disparity, a recent study (2019) has provided evidence for one particularly potent, and underemphasized, factor. The team discovered that across the United Nations, Japan, and Sweden, as women moved up the corporate ladder, they became increasingly more likely to be a victim of sexual harassment. Referring to it as the ‘paradox of power,’ the team noted that it reinforces workplace inequalities because sexual harassment damages a woman’s mental health, productivity, and sense of safety, leading hundreds of women to feel “disincentivized from taking leadership roles.”
Female Leaders Face a ‘Paradox of Power’ in Corporate Culture.
As we feel a collective triumph over Weinstein’s guilty verdict, many have hopes for a new era of workplace relations — a future wherein the days of men in positions of power abusing their subordinates are finally behind us. Unfortunately, Folke et al. (2019) have discovered that the problems are far more unconsciously ingrained than initially thought.
This mass study undertaken in the United States, Japan, and Sweden sought to find patterns in workplace power-relations and its impact on sexual harassment. The analysts discovered, unexpectedly, that sexual harassment was far more prevalent for female supervisors than for their female employees, despite the fact a supervisor was more likely to speak out. In all three countries, women in positions of power had a 30–100% increased chance of experiencing sexual harassment, mainly from their subordinates. The researchers argued that these results highlight how sexual harassment is more often about ‘status equalization’ than sexual desire.
Sexual Harassment Causes Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues.
Sexual harassment dramatically increases an individual’s likelihood of developing a mental illness such as PTSD, substance abuse issues, intense stress, self-doubt, lowered self-esteem, and severely hinders productivity. In 2017, approximately 80% of women in the US reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Thus, while we have made progress since the 1960s, the damaging idea that women should not be in power is still alive and well in corporate culture. One of the chief aims of the #EachforEqual campaign is to build inclusive workplaces that enable women to thrive. To achieve this fundamental goal, the prevention of a toxic relationship between gender, power, and mental health in the workplace must be at the forefront of our mission.
Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Boardroom.
If you are an employer or C-Suite executive, the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace must be at the heart of your corporation’s policies. Not only because it severely hinders your employee’s health, but because the consequences are too interlinked with so many critical issues not to tackle it head-on. It is crucial to remember that harassing another human being is a profoundly insecure and reactionary decision — traits that are terrible for business. Training programs and a corporate culture built on awareness, open dialogue, and safety are tools to combat these issues and create, as the International Women’s Day campaign so perfectly phrases it, “a healthier, wealthier, and more harmonious (corporate) world.”
If you are an individual, female or male, who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it is vital to speak with your employer about the incident. In a lot of countries, companies are legally required to have strict regulations that prevent abuse. Recovery from harassment of any form is a painful and complicated process that, more often than not, will need — and deserves — therapeutic assistance. If you have experienced assault in the workplace, the boardroom, or any corporate environment, it is essential to validate your own emotional experience. Avoid minimizing or justifying the assaulter’s behavior because, every time we do so, we rewrite the memory and move further away from how we felt at that moment. This is detrimental to our health because it rejects the validity of our feelings at that moment.
Gender Equality at Paracelsus Recovery.
At Paracelsus Recovery, over 75% of its managerial roles are occupied by women. Our CEO, Dr. Marta Ra, is an outspoken advocate for gender equality, mental health, and sustainability. Dr. Ra is a co-founder of Women in Sustainable Finance (WISF), which aims to empower women to unite and work towards transforming the international financial industry into a more sustainable environment. She elaborates upon these values in her Tedx Talk,Moving Money to Meaning. Most recently, Dr. Ra shared her insights at Davos about the epidemic of mental illness in the C-Suite and how female leaders are needed to halt it. As a treatment center concerned with an individual’s health, we ensure that our working environment reflects our values of diversity, wellbeing, and sustainability.
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Khadr, S. Clarke, V. Wellings, K. et al. (2018). Mental and sexual health outcomes following sexual assault in adolescents: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health. 2(9): 654–665. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30202-5