FEMFACTS
20 Dec 2018

The right and the wrong way to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace

Wall Street bankers created a “phenomenal list of advice” to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits, say some Russian and Ukrainian media. But the “list” is not what they say it is.

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Olena Churanova NewsMavens, Europe
The right and the wrong way to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace - NewsMavens
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WHAT’S THE CLAIM?

Trying to talk about an article from Bloomberg warning about the effects of the #MeToo movement, some media outlets ignored the main points. The headline of the story on the Russian website Meduza reads:

“How to avoid suspicion of harassment? Here is a (phenomenal!) list of advices from Wall Street bankers”.

According to Meduza, “a brief set of rules that bankers on Wall Street are trying to follow to avoid suspicion of harassment” in the #MeToo era, includes such items as:

“Don’t sit next to a woman on the flight”,

“Book hotel rooms on different floors on business meetings”,

“Have meetings in the presence of a third party”,

“In any case never be alone with a woman”, etc.

“Meduza” made the supposed list into an image, signing “Bloomberg” under the listed “set of rules”.

The Ukrainian website “Ukrainian news” also claimed that “Bloomberg published a short set of rules, which Wall Street is trying to follow now”.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

The article from Bloomberg that caused increased interest among media in post-soviet countries was published with the intriguing headline: “Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo era: avoid women at all cost”. The headline below is more informative and explains what will be discussed in the article: “Controversial strategies risk isolating women in finance”.

In the original article, what was presented as “Bloomberg’s list of new rules” by the Russian and Ukrainian source, was described as “controversial strategies for the #MeToo era” which risks  “making life even harder for women” and instigating gender segregation. Authors also stated that “Wall Street risks becoming more of a boy’s club”, as women are already scarce in the upper ranks of financial world. Being mentored by senior male colleagues, forming bonds and connections in informal meetings and activities outside of the workplace -- these are some of the opportunities for career advancement which would remain available to their male counterparts, but not to them.

Except for clear criticism of such strategies which would isolate women in the financial industry, Bloomberg’s article also notes that there are men who are responding to the “#MeToo era” in very different ways. A simple solution offered by one investment adviser is quoted: “Just try not to be an asshole”.  

Moreover, if the authors of Meduza and Ukrainian news’ articles were really interested in lists with useful advice, they could have found some which do exist -- and they are totally opposite to the “strategies” which bankers mentioned to Bloomberg. For example, Kim Elsesser, the author of “Sex and the Office: Women, Men and the Sex Partition that’s Dividing the Workplace”, has offered recommendations to resolve tension among coworkers and to make interactions with the opposite sex at work easier. They include some bullet points:

  • Meeting alone? Be specific about your intentions;
  • Remember, most people are not harassers;
  • It's difficult to inadvertently sexually harass someone;
  • Apply the one chance rule to dating;
  • Don't be afraid to talk about consent;
  • Don’t avoid the opposite sex, mentor them.

Presenting controversial practices which are being adopted on Wall Street as a “strict set of rules”, is only aggravating the problem and giving space for new manipulations, controversial theories and discrimination. While Bloomberg article tries to draw attention to the problem of women’s hard access to the upper ranks, Russian and Ukrainian media reported it as a new way of doing business and even presented it as something recommended by Bloomberg. In the process, they not only disseminated fake and manipulative information, but also decried the #MeToo movement.

We’ve tried to reach journalists from Meduza and Ukrainian news for a comment, but haven’t received a response.

CONCLUSIONS

The claim that Bloomberg made, or even recommended, a list of advice based on inputs from Wall Street bankers is a disinformation. The way Bloomberg’s article was reported in the analyzed articles presents a manipulation of facts, and one that encourages economic inequality of women and men in terms of their opportunities and treatment in the workplace. As they are based on manipulative and inaccurate interpretation of the original article, we also rate both of these headlines as clickbait.

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