Executive Commentary
Where ‘Me Too’ Can Take Us
Lorna Donatone
Lorna Donatone

CEO, Sodexo Schools Worldwide President,
Sodexo North America

The “#MeToo” social media campaign is extraordinary and enlightening. Clearly, we all need to take seriously that so many women are posting and tweeting those two words to say that they, too, have been harassed or assaulted.

There have been many heartfelt examinations of the personal impact of harassment and worse these past weeks. Those consequences are devastating, but they are not isolated.

This type of behavior, whether in the workplace, at home or in the community, affects us all. It is difficult to measure the steep physical and emotional toll. The financial cost has, however, been partially tallied.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, every year sexual assaults on women cost the United States about $4.9 billion, including medical expenses, lost productivity, and lost earning potential. As for harassment, we can only guess at the number of women whose careers have been stalled and contributions dismissed. It’s a loss that can’t be quantified.

#MeToo has already been successful in spreading awareness.

Imagine if we can take it further and harness the momentum of this movement. We can use it to change the way we treat each other and educate our teams on dignity and respect.

Personally, my biggest motivator for this is my daughter – with me above. I don’t want her to endure harassment or feel stymied in an atmosphere that accepts it. It was a male mentor who boosted my advancement so I know how crucial it is for both men and women to be part of this change.

When women feel supported in the workplace, they can contribute fully and flourish. When they don’t, they suffer and so does the organization that loses out on their full participation.

Imagine if we, men and women alike, could stand up in the same sort of public way so many brave women have recently. We could say, “We’re with you. We, too, are committed to support gender equality in the workplace.”

For those of us more than ready for that, the United Nations has a framework for action. It’s called the “Women’s Empowerment Principles” And they offer an important way forward.

It’s a pledge for business leaders and also a toolkit that offers practical guidance on how the business community can better empower women. It’s intended to “support companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—to realize women’s empowerment.”

I would think many companies are taking a second look at those polices right about now.

You can learn more about the principles here and encourage your company leadership to sign here.

I signed onto the principles a few weeks ago, along with several other leaders in my company and more than 1500 others from companies like Proctor & Gamble, Hilton and Nestle.

Widespread, systemic inequity will not be fixed with one pen swipe. But, if the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that we need to start moving on this issue. This pledge is the first step in the right direction.

UN Women’s Empowerment Principles:

  • Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treat all women and men fairly at work—respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
  • Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
  • Promote education, training and professional development for wome
  • Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing
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