A lot of good has come out of the #MeToo movement. Women are more fearlessly speaking up about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, and their voices are being heard. Moreover, many men who've been perpetuating sexual harassment and assault in the workplace have been fired — and many of them have actually been replaced by women.
A few months ago, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg warned that, as evermore women come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace, she’d “heard the rumblings of a backlash: 'This is why you shouldn’t hire women.'”
“Doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect,” she explained. “It also means not isolating or ignoring them — and making access equal. Whether that means you take all your direct reports out to dinner or none of them, the key is to give men and women equal opportunities to succeed.”
Flash forward, and a New York Times analysis finds that, since the publishing of the exposé (and the following New Yorker investigation), at least 200 prominent men have lost their jobs after public allegations of sexual harassment — some of whom have faced criminal charges. At least 920 people have come forward to accuse one of the men of subjecting them to sexual misconduct. And nearly half of those men (43 percent) have been replaced by women.
The New York Times gathered cases of prominent people who'd lost their main jobs ( those in significant leadership positions or with major contracts). Of those replaced by women, one-third are in news media, one-quarter in government and one-fifth in entertainment and the arts.
This is good news for both women and their workplaces in their entirety. A gamut of research suggests that women foster more respectful work environments where there's less likely to be harassment and, if there is sexual misconduct, women feel more comfortable reporting it. Female leaders have also been found to hire and promote more women, pay them fairly and, in turn, increase companies' profits.
Of course, appointing women does not guarantee change, especially in times of crisis when their chances of failure are deemed higher. And, despite the number of women who've risen to leadership in the wake of #MeToo, women are still largely underrepresented. While statistics are suggesting improvement, the numbers are still grim. The share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 6.4 percent in 2017, with 32 women heading major firms, according to the Pew Research Center. But the share has fallen to 4.8 percent after several high-profile women left their posts (i.e. Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co. and Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise). Moreover, the late Katherine Graham, of The Washington Post Co. was the first female CEO to make the Fortune 500 list back in 1972. And as recently as 1995, there were still no female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list.
In fact, women at all levels are still outnumbered by Johns alone. Johns represent 3.3 percent of the population, while women represent 50.8 percent — and, onetheless, it can be as easy to find a man named John as it is to find a woman in some of America's top leadership roles, and sometimes even easier, according to The New York Times Glass Ceiling Index, which counted the women and men in important leadership roles in American life (politics, law, business, tech, academia, film and news media).
Meanwhile, more than 10 percent of the men who've been ousted for sexual misconduct have tried to make a comeback or, at the very least, have voiced a desire to.
"Louis C.K. recently took the stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York, raising questions of how long is long enough for people to be banished from their field, and who gets to decide," according to the New York Times analysis. "Garrison Keillor, the radio host, has restarted 'The Writer’s Almanac' as a podcast and reportedly received $275,000 for a deal in which Minnesota Public Radio reposted archived episodes of his programs. Jerry Richardson, the founder and former owner of the Carolina Panthers, was fined $2.75 million by the N.F.L. after he was accused of sexual harassment — but sold the team for at least $2.2 billion, a record amount."
Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, told the New York Times that very few of these ousted men have even taken responsibility for their actions or offered private apologies to their victims.
“Where’s the self-reflection and accountability?” she reportedly said. “Perhaps if we saw some evidence of that, then we can have a more robust conversation about the road to redemption.”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,