Women looking for male allies in the fight against harassment: Read a Wall Street icon’s pragmatic advice

Sallie Krawcheck’s family was surprised to learn of her history of sexual harassment.
Sallie Krawcheck’s family was surprised to learn of her history of sexual harassment.
Image: Reuters/Keith Bedford
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While the bombshell Harvey Weinstein scandal and the millions of #MeToo stories that came pouring out afterward have women sighing a collective, exhausted, “finally,” many men are shook: They can’t believe how pervasive sexual harassment is. They want to be better feminist allies. They don’t necessarily know how.

Some women might be tempted to respond to these men with a swift and deafening “Figure it out.” Far too often, the emotional labor of educating men about feminism, sexual harassment, and sexism in general, falls on women. But waiting on men to wake up on their own clearly hasn’t succeeded.

Instead, it’s an opportune time for women to simply bring home their stories of harassment, and share them with the men in their lives as a way of enlisting those men as allies. That’s the advice of Sallie Krawcheck, who cracked many a glass ceiling on Wall Street before launching her own firm, Ellevest, where she is CEO.

Krawcheck has written publicly about finding photocopied images of penises left on her desk when she worked at Salomon Brothers, and having a powerful man wag his tongue at her and then invite her to his hotel room while she was director of research at Sanford C. Bernstein.

In a new video with Fast Company, Krawcheck, author of Own It: The Power of Women at Work, explains her own family’s reaction when they finally learned what she had endured:

“I shared one of my stories of harassment in a [recent]Ellevest newsletter, and my husband and my son were like ‘What?’ And I was like, ‘What? What do you mean, ‘What?’ And I realized that I wasn’t bringing home my stories because, I  mean, who wants to bring that home?

You know [sexual harassment] happens to everybody, and we’re talking to [our] girlfriends about it over a glass of wine, but I wasn’t bringing it home to the most important men in my life. And so therefore I wasn’t equipping them with how pervasive it was, [so they could] therefore go into the workplace and advocate for other women.”

After enlightening her husband and son that she, too, had experienced sexual harassment, Krawcheck says that they were more motivated to fight against sexism whenever they saw it—be it men interrupting women in meetings, women getting shushed, or men stealing women’s ideas.

In a way, Krawcheck’s advice flips the script on men’s now-hackneyed habit of mentioning their daughters while critiquing serial harassers like Weinstein. As Hunter Harris puts it in Vulture, “Having a daughter shouldn’t be a requirement for internalizing the problems of working within a sexist industry. Your wives gave birth to a baby girl, not a moral compass.”

While men ideally would be aware of, and speaking out against, harassment even if a loved one wasn’t experiencing it, as Krawcheck sees it, women who have been targets have an opportunity close at hand to shape the men they trust most into effective allies in the fight against a systemic problem.