The Boy’s Club is alive and well. It is 2017, yet it still prevails and dictates to its male successors that sexual harassment, gender discrimination, shaming and bullying are all okay. I can say this first hand as I have lived in it for over 20 years in the corporate world. From 1994 to today, I have seen zero change. It has been a consistent culture for every company I’ve ever worked for. In each organization, I was taught not to challenge the club, as it could hurt my job, opportunities for advancement and my reputation.
Ironically, I was actually told to stand down on such topics early on in my career by a human resources director, who was female. I was having problems with my male manager at the time. My problems did not come in the form of sexual harassment, but in the form of bullying and intimidation. He had actually done it to a lot of the women on our team, and everyone was angry and confused but weren’t sure what to do. I just happened to be the one to put my neck out to see how we could stop it. When I called the HR director, this is what she told me, “Holly, realize who you are going up against? He has been with the company for years versus your short tenure. He is a well regarded manager, and just know that you will certainly not win in this situation”.
I didn’t know this was a contest.
This conversation impacted me in the coming years. I was afraid to continue with standing up for myself. I learned to be quiet and just take the bad behavior because he was going to “win” anyway. I continued to work for mostly male managers and consistently had similar situations and outcomes.
What this message does to women is make us feel like we don’t have a voice because we are told not to. If we want to succeed, thrive and prosper, better keep your mouth shut. This has become a cycle. And it needs to stop now.
This is why the Boy’s Club prevails:
1. The men have insulated their pack. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a work function and I’m just surrounded by men in golf shirts and khakis. Consider this their breeding ground. They tend to relate, promote and hire people just like themselves. This is where they have had a chance to approach their “breeding” differently, but they choose to stay in their comfort zone, which enforces the pack and its behavior.
2. They have been taught that treating women poorly is completely acceptable. It is laughed at and tolerated. I have seen this first hand. The problem here is that it bleeds into the company culture and everyone starts thinking in the same manner and sending the message to women employees that they’ll never win this fight.
3. Women have been told to take the path of least resistance. When a woman comes out loudly about these issues, she puts herself in a situation where she will be attacked and basically told to accept it. This is why it takes years for this stuff to come to the surface. Consider Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. It took years for women to talk about it and put themselves out there for criticism and comments. It takes a lot of courage and chutzpah to put yourself on the firing line.
We need to start with having these conversations and being bold with them. We take the Harvey Weinstein’s and James Toback’s of the world, and make a loud, direct example of why things need to change. We need to teach our women and girls to be vocal and not to be afraid to speak up and let them know this is a fight they will win.
Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com.