If Neil deGrasse Tyson's accusers had come forth 5 years ago, it wouldn't have made a blip in the media--traditional or social. Two of the accusations involved him being "creepy." That is, he looked further at a tattoo of the planets on a woman's upper arm, and he invited a colleague for wine and cheese and offered a special handshake that involved staring into each other's eyes and feeling each other's pulses. Tyson doesn't deny either event took place, but states he had no bad intentions and had no idea that the women were bothered.
The third accusation of a drugged rape is, much more serious and Tyson denies it took place at all. The event was over 30 years ago, and would be impossible to verify.
And this leads us to a recent article at Bloomberg regarding men on Wall Street being wary of being alone with any women--but especially with young and attractive women. The article begins:
No more dinners with female colleagues. Don't sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.
In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, just hiring a woman these days is "an unknown risk." What if she took something he said the wrong way?
This fear is definitely founded. We have a situation with Tyson where (in the first two accusations) both parties agree on what happen, but they took it very different ways. No one would be surprised to find that, in the future, Tyson only inviting invite male co-workers to his office for wine and cheese.
But, as the Bloomberg article goes on to state, in a quote from Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison "those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint."
If men decide that hiring, mentoring, or even being alone with women is too big of a risk, they are guilty of sexual discrimination, unless they treat men the same way. Fortunately, we can solve this. Here's how.
Forget "believe all women."
This was the rallying cry during the Kavanaugh hearings, as well as before and after. The response should be, no, we don't believe all women. We don't believe all men. We don't believe all executives. We don't believe all interns. There is simply not a single group of people we can afford to take at their word.
We investigate any and all allegations. We do not fire based on a viral video. We do not fire based on Twitter hashtags. It's critical that we investigate and then act on the results. Regardless of public opinion.
If we do not, and we are swayed by any one group, we should not be surprised when people don't wish to associate with the favored victim group.
We make clear rules around sexual harassment and discrimination and we train all employees.
It would be totally awesome if we could just say to everyone, "you're adults, so please act responsibly." But, we can't. As the Wall Street people noted, young women are more of a threat than older women. It's not just that they are young, it's that they come to the office with a different understanding of what is and is not sexual harassment.
Remember, someone straight out of college is coming at sex with an idea of "consent" where someone older comes at it with an idea of "no means no." The concepts are completely different and can result in one person feeling he did nothing wrong while the other feels assaulted.
Yesterday, some construction workers catcalled me as I walked down the street. It didn't bother me in the least, and, in fact, it amused me. The younger generation is more inclined to think of those same actions as "street harassment." While I certainly don't condone rude behavior anywhere, I'm going to approach such behavior with a different mindset.
Companies need to determine what is, and what is not appropriate behavior, and then make it clear. Is it okay for two people in the office to be involved in a sexual relationship? If yes, do reporting lines matter? If yes, what are those? Make it clear, and make the punishment clear in advance as well.
What about alcohol?
Alcohol is always a problem when sexual harassment is concerned. Inhibitions are lowered and judgment is blurred. Do you ban it on company property? Do you make it clear that, on business dinners, there's a limit of one glass of wine per person?
Yes, these things can seem completely over-reaching and result in people feeling micromanaged, but when you have potential problems resulting from alcohol consumption you stop it before it starts.
Implement and enforce gender neutral rules.
If senior men don't want to be alone with junior females, then that's fine, but they aren't allowed to be alone with junior males either. If you want doors opened or every office to have a window for male-female discussions, then you do the same for male-male and female-female discussions.
All of this can sound ridiculous, but our inability to investigate has led to this point. If you don't want to see women being the victim of discrimination, you've got to make the rules clear and enforce them.