Three Easy Questions to Empower Womxn* in the Face of Widespread, Public Sexual Harassment

The world can change with coffee, questions, and truly hearing and understanding the answers to the questions. Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

I’m hearing/reading some rumblings in my networks online and offline. Mostly from men. These rumblings sound like:

"I don't want my career to be threatened"

and

"I wonder who (victim) will come forward next and start the next problem."

Which isn't surprising, as we are all looking out for #1 (ourselves) at the end of the day, and we've all (yes, all of us) been socially conditioned in a patriarchal system that oppresses all of us, not just womxn.

And it's possible to look out for #1 while ensuring everyone else around you has a fair shake at it.

What do I wish I was hearing? These three questions are a great way to empower womxn to speak up in the face of widespread, public sexual harassment.

  1. "Who can we lift up, right now, in this company, to help us make sure that we are empowering our womxn employees?"
  2. "What companies are leading in this space? What kinds of programs do they have in place?"
  3. And, the question that would be music to my ears: "Sydney, in your lived experience, how can we support, champion, and foster womxn like you?"

I don't just want to be having this conversation at work. I want to have it with folks in my community. Politicians. Investors. Folks who have capital, access to resources, and a desire to help womxn find equity across every facet of their lives.

Why This Is Important

By asking the first question, you start to shift your thinking out of "I wonder who's going to come forward next" (which easily turns into victim shaming/blaming by default), and into thinking about the strong, powerful womxn who are hungry to make a difference in your organization.

If there is no history of this kind of support, if it isn't abundantly clear to every single womxn you employ, you probably haven't identified who cares about this at your organization yet, but I can assure you, if one of the womxn hasn't come forth already, the second you ask this question, she/they will.

By asking the second question, you're putting your ego aside for a moment and taking a look at your peer group. Who, within your company, may have experience with this kind of work? What are other companies similar to yours doing in this space? Not only is a womxn's empowerment program a good business idea, but it's the right thing to do.

And by asking the third question, you'd get this answer:

In my lived experience, how I can be supported, championed, and fostered in my growth - at work, in a community organization, in friendships, literally in any interaction with other humans - this is my truth:

Take the time to really listen to my experience. If it makes you feel some kind of way, I encourage you to speak to that. Don't worry about using the right language right now, let's talk about how my truths make you feel, and start to understand why they make you feel that way. Because understanding your own reactions to my lived experience is the first, at times very difficult, step in understanding me, what fills me up, what makes me tick, and how we can best support each other. The rest will come with time, but the first step is to ask, and then truly hear and start to understand my answer.

So instead of waiting for those questions to be asked of me, I'll ask them of you.

Who can you lift up, right now, at your company, to help make sure that you are empowering your womxn employees? Tag her in the comments.

What companies are leading in this space? What kinds of programs do they have in place? Tag them in the comments.

And, dear reader, in your lived experience, how can we support, champion, and foster womxn like you? Let me know in the comments.

* In case you don't like to click through links, here's the first line from the article linked above explaining the spelling used here: “Womxn” isn’t a typo. It’s a powerful, increasingly popular label, encompassing a broader range of gender identities than “woman”