About 1 year ago today, following the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement went viral.  Temin and Company Incorporated put together some great data points that really bring to life the watershed affect the accusations against Weinstein had on the world. 

In the last year and a half, there has been approximately 810 high-profit public figures, across industries, accused of sexual harassment.  Of those 417 suffered repercussions, 146 were fired, 211 resigned, 75 were arrested, 53 were suspended, and 104 lost work or sponsorships due to their actions.  

The statistics are staggering, and I see both the beauty and the sadness the #MeToo movement has created.  Like many women, I’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace.  You wouldn’t think someone would ever sexually harass someone that works in the ethics and compliance department, but you’d be surprised.  When it happened, there was a part of me that felt small and that my voice would be ignored.  However, I knew that I had to ignore that doubtful voice in the back of my mind and speak up.  How could I ask the employees that I support to speak up if I wasn’t willing to doing it myself?  I also knew that I had a manager that would listen and take my allegation seriously.   Not all employees have receptive managers or a culture that encourages people to speak up for themselves and others.   

I knew I had a responsibility to myself and my organization to speak up.  Just like with the #MeToo movement, one strong voice can empower others to find their strength.   Employees should build each other up and treat each other with dignity and respect.  Building a harassment-free organization starts with that company’s leadership and the core values they establish and embody.  Shared values are what promote trust and link an organization together.  Companies should look beyond the resume and hire people who share and embrace their core values. If someone is missing a skill, you can always provide training.  Trying to instill values into someone that is lacking them is almost impossible. 

And for companies with a culture of silence where sexual harassment is ignored or tolerated, the best thing they can do to protect themselves and their employees is by changing the culture.  They need to stop leaving culture to chance by being proactive and intentional in creating a culture that treats employees with respect and dignity.  Leadership needs to express in words, and demonstrate by actions, that sexual harassment is forbidden.  They also must be willing to terminate employees, regardless of performance, if they have been found guilty of harassment.  

The #MeToo movement has been a catalyst for many organizations to take a good look at their employees and the culture of their company.  For those companies that are looking to create or repair their culture, they would do well to remember that it’s all about the values of the people you hire.  Companies should only keep, or hire in the first place, employees that are the best fit for their culture. And more importantly, they need to make sure they know what type of culture and values they want to have.  I think the CEO for Zappo’s has the right idea.  He believes that “if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a great long-term brand, or empowering passionate employees and customers, will happen on its own."

Stephanie Jenkins is the Chief Compliance Officer of ETHIX360.  At ETHIX360, our goal is simple, to provide an affordable, flexible and comprehensive answer to employee communication and case management on issues related to corporate ethics, code of conduct, fraud, bribery, environmental, health & safety, and workplace violence.  To learn more about ETHIX360, please visit ethix360.com, or follow us on twitter @ethix360 and LinkedIn.