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raceAhead: Have You Been Sexually Harassed At Work?

October 11, 2017, 6:04 PM UTC

“How many women in this room have been sexually harassed?”

This was the opening question asked by Vanity Fair special correspondent Sarah Ellison during a powerful session at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C. this morning, shortly after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson took the stage.

Nearly every hand in the audience went up.

Sexual assault in the workplace continues to be top of mind, as stories of harassment and worse continue to emerge about the once powerful Harvey Weinstein.

It was Carlson’s own sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes, at the time Fox chairman, that precipitated his exit from the network. Carlson’s second act? An advocate for women.

Carlson had some words of warning for anyone who is preparing to tell a similar story. “I can tell you this: You find out who your friends are in a big way. I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in 30 years, and I didn’t hear from some of my neighbors. So, it can be a very alone experience.”

Until it’s not. “First of all, if you do come forward, you’ll be labeled a ‘troublemaker’ or a ‘bitch,’” she said. “More importantly, you won’t be believed. And, some people have even suggested that you do it for money or fame.”

But, she says of the women who have been coming forward with Weinstein horror stories, “If I had anything to do with those women feeling empowered to have a voice, my life has had so much purpose,” Carlson said. “And, it’s something that I never ever expected that I would be the face of.”

If you are not sure you have enough energy for this fight, either as a victim or an ally, then I recommend you invest the three minutes it will take to watch this video released to commemorate International Day of the Girl.

Created by the UN’s Global Goals project, it features extraordinary and truly fierce girls from around the world dancing and lip-syncing to “Freedom” a song from Beyonce’s “Lemonade” magnum opus. While the video is joyous, the barriers that girls continue to face are not. Here’s just one alarming stat: Every five minutes a girl dies as a result of violence.

Enjoy. And then stand up.


On Point

Men pre-emptively punish women out of fear of being accused of sexual harassmentThat’s an alternative headline for this alarming New York Times piece by Claire Cain Miller describing a new cautiousness from Silicon Valley men. “In interviews, the men describe a heightened caution because of recent sexual harassment cases, and they worry that one accusation, or misunderstood comment, could end their careers.” As a result, they’re canceling one-on-one meetings, rescheduling meetings from restaurants to conference rooms… and removing opportunities for women to have the kind of access and information that could potentially help them grow their careers.New York Times

Many of this year’s MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipients are focused on race and social justice
The 24 winners of the annual prize are chosen for their “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” But it’s hard not to see a connective thread of uplift and transformation in this year’s crop. Writer Jesmyn Ward and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones may be immediately familiar to the raceAhead crowd, but it’s clear if these investments pay off, the world will be a better place. We’ve got interviews lined up with several, so stay tuned. Know hope.

A black model in a controversial Dove ad speaks out
Lola Ogunyemi was recently featured in a Dove body wash campaign that had inspired heated online critique for an apparently racist premise — the black woman pulls a t-shirt over her head only to be transformed into a white woman. The imagery, critics said, recalled a deeply hurtful history of white-centered ideals of beauty. Ogunyemi, a Nigerian woman born in London and raised in Atlanta, has penned a thoughtful piece explaining how personally hurtful white-centered beauty has been to her, and why the snippets of the ad that had been circulated were misinterpreted. “There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage,” she said, referring to mistakes that Dove has made in the past. “While I agree with Dove’s response to unequivocally apologise for any offense caused, they could have also defended their creative vision, and their choice to include me, an unequivocally dark-skinned black woman, as a face of their campaign.” Your call.
The Guardian

Opinion: The financial services industry largely ignores black clients
Zaneilia Harris is a black certified financial planner who has come to a difficult realization: Her industry does not have time for “minority” clients. “I get it,” she says, of the chase to help the wealthy get wealthier. “The lead time to convert minorities is too long, given the deficit we’re saddled with from the beginning, and our goal in the financial industry is to make money now.” But even relatively wealthy black individuals go unprospected. “I live and work in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the wealthiest, predominantly black county in the country,” and there are few financial services companies to be found. “Some would call it a financial desert.” Registration required.
Financial Planning

The Woke Leader

Read this extraordinary review of Jesmyn Ward’s novel
Now that she’s a MacArthur winner, it’s even more exciting to dig into Ward’s extraordinary aesthetic roots. Nobody puts together a review like Vinson Cunningham, and the context he provides for “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” Ward’s third novel, helps to bring an already luminous work further to life. It begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a storm which had terrorized Ward and her family. Ward, says Cunningham, “alludes to the Old Testament and Greek mythology with equal frequency and intensity; for her, Katrina is comparable in significance to the Egyptian captivity or the aftermath of the Trojan War.” As a result, the novel sets its characters into a damaged but beloved landscape. ‘‘Sing, Unburied, Sing” has the haunted quality of an afterlife; its characters seem stranded in an epilogue,” writes Cunningham.
New Yorker

Here’s what teams need to succeed
Spoiler alert: You’re probably not going to like it. A recently released six-year study has found that one skill, “the ability to manage conflicting tensions” is the best predictor of top team performance. It gets worse. Top teams also believe that conflict isn’t just unavoidable, it’s necessary. They embrace diversity and healthy debate, believing that “conflict requires conviction, and that conviction must be grounded in something worth at least listening to.” Or maybe I'm wrong. Are you ready to embrace tough conversations in service of a better product, business, and world?

Being a black daughter with a white mom
You don’t have to be a Queen Sugar fan (although you should be, really) to dig into this piece from Shondaland. Although it explores a shocking plot twist - a black character is revealed to have a white mother – it quickly pivots to some poignant facts of life for black girls with white mothers. “We live in a mainstream culture that repeatedly tells black women we’re too loud, too angry — that regularly defines us as “less classically beautiful” if we veer away from white standards of beauty,” explained Rebecca Carroll. This is an area that white mothers aren’t always able to navigate. “Our white mothers have no sense of what it’s like to not see themselves on magazine covers, in movies, in boardrooms and corporate meetings, or to be told how to behave during a White House press briefing.”


Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men’s sense that they are more important than women, as a group.
—Anita Hill