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Harvey Weinstein’s NDAs, the Goddess Myth, Paid Leave at IBM: Broadsheet for Oct. 25

October 25, 2017, 11:54 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A Weinstein accuser breaks her NDA, mothers face unrealistic—and sometimes dangerous—expectations, and women’s work behavior goes under the microscope. Enjoy your Wednesday.


You're leaning in far enough. Do differences in women's and men's behaviors impact their careers? To answer that elusive question, researchers affiliated with analytics company Humanyze looked at the employees of a large multinational business strategy firm, where women are underrepresented in upper management (about 20% of people at the second-highest level of this organization are women). To track individual behavior, the researchers "collected email communication and meeting schedule data for 500 employees in one office, across all five levels of seniority, over the course of four months" and "then gave 100 of these individuals sociometric badges, which allowed us to track in-person behavior."

The results? "We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women," write the researchers. "Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership, and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role."

This outcome refutes the commonly-held notion that women don't have access to those in positions of power and that the upper rungs of leadership operate as boys' clubs (at least in this particular company). So, if men and women act the same at work, why aren't they getting promoted at the same rate? While the researchers didn't delve into this question specifically, they had two hypotheses:

  1. Unconscious bias: "Our data implies that gender differences may lie not in how women act but in how people perceive their actions. For example, consider female mentorship programs that try to connect high-potential women with management. If women talk to leadership at similar rates as men, then the problem isn’t lack of access but how those conversations are viewed."
  2. Women leaving for family reasons: As noted by McKinsey and LeanIn.org’s 2017 gender report, women with a partner are 5.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to do all or most of the housework.

While this is a small-scale study and should be weighted accordingly, my main takeaway from it is that women are already doing what they need to be doing to succeed at work. The onus is less on women to "lean in" and more on those in positions of power to combat unconscious biases, and on male partners at home to assume more of the unpaid labor that so often falls to women. Harvard Business Review


How victims are kept silent. After years of being harassed by Harvey Weinstein, Zelda Perkins, who worked for Miramax as his assistant in London, decided to quit after a colleague accused the media mogul of raping her. She and the colleague were advised to press charges—which they did—and ended up with £125,000 each after signing non-disclosure agreements. That was 19 years ago. Perkins has decided to break the NDA because she wants "a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under." Her experience included days of questioning by a "phalanx" of lawyers, capped by a 12-hour session that ended at 5 a.m. Weinstein reps deny the rape allegation. Financial Times

More Weinstein waves. Laurene Powell Jobs's Emerson Collective has pulled the plug on a new magazine headed by Leon Wieseltier after several women accused the former New Republic editor of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances. Wieseltier has apologized for “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past." New York Times

The Goddess myth. In this week's cover story, Time's Claire Howorth writes about the Goddess myth, which she describes as follows: "It tells us that breast is best; that if there is a choice between a vaginal birth and major surgery, you should want to push; that your body is a temple and what you put in it should be holy; that sending your baby to the hospital nursery for a few hours after giving birth is a dereliction of duty." The consequences of this pressure to be the perfect mom? They vary, "from pervasive feelings of guilt to the rare and unbearable tragedy of a mother so intent on breastfeeding that she accidentally starves her infant to death." According to a survey of 913 mothers commissioned by Time, half of all new mothers experience regret, shame, guilt or anger. Time

IBM's parental perks. IBM this morning announced sweetened parental benefits for its U.S. employees for the second time in as many years. It's doubling paid time off for dads, partners, and adoptive parents, and offering a $20,000 reimbursement for surrogacy expenses. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Donna Kinnaird, former SVP and COO of Reinsurance Group of America, has joined New York Life’s board of directors. AppNexus has appointed Nithya Das to the new role of chief people and legal officer; she will also serve on the company’s executive committee. Jezebel has named Koa Beck as its new editor-in-chief.


Leaving in bad taste. New Orleans-based restaurateur John Besh is stepping down from the company he founded after 25 female employees accused Besh Restaurant Group of fostering an environment where sexual harassment went unchecked and accusers were often penalized. New York Times

#StopSkirtingTheIssue. After two men took upskirt photos of Gina Martin—without her consent—she began campaigning to make the behavior illegal in the U.K. "We have to remind people that minor sexual assaults cast a long shadow, and when the law actively chooses not to punish those actions, it’s telling little girls that abuse is something they should expect, just because they’re female," she says. Refinery29

More Issa! Insecure star and creator Issa Rae is teaming up with author Angela Flournoy to create a new show for HBO. Rae will executive produce the show, which will be set in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and center on an African-American family dealing with the events of the time. Deadline

Why this kolaveri di? If you've ever seen a Bollywood flick (if you haven't, definitely do—I recommend starting with the classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge), the following take-aways won't surprise you: An analysis of 4,000 plot descriptions of Hindi films reveals that women are few and far between. When they are portrayed, the focus is usually on their "physical appearances, emotional states, or their relation to a male, such as the 'wife of' or 'daughter of' so-and-so." Quartz

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