But the main other ingredient that is critical to discussing both racism and sexism is the “power dynamic.” The real problem is when people in power use that power to degrade and unfairly treat either individuals or entire groups of people.
Let’s first look at sexism and sexual harassment. I would assert that if an entry level or lower salaried man sexually harassed a co-worker or client, they would immediately be fired. But when it is senior executive or top performer in an organization, so often the violation is minimized, excused or never addressed. The Human Resources professional who receives an allegation of sexual misconduct by a senior executive may be afraid to investigate. They may believe that the senior executive could quickly negatively impact their career or job. They say, “We can’t go after that executive – he is far too powerful.” Or when the top salesman makes a sexual move on a younger junior colleague in the office, the excuse is, “Well, he is the top performer, we need him.”
Drastic actions must be taken to address sexual misconduct by those in power by boards of directors and the Human Resources profession. See my blog, “Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.”
Second, let’s look a racism, especially institutional racism, which “occurs specifically in institutions such as governmental bodies, corporations and universities where systemic policies and practices within the institution have the effect of disadvantaging certain racial or ethnic groups.” See my blog on personal and institutional racism that includes examples.
Hopefully with deliberate, thoughtful, strong actions we can continue to progress in addressing racism and sexism, and hold leaders accountable who abuse their power. This will lead to a stronger nation and economy where everyone is valued, treated fairly and can contribute their very best.