The sudden onslaught of high profile sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases that are surfacing has me quoting a line from one of my favorite movies; “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”. First, American Apparel, then Tinder and next a global leader in M&A, investments and other banking advice. So, I repeat, “What is going on?!” I understand that women were not always in the workplace, but heck it’s been nearly 100 years since the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. Why are women still receiving a backlash for wanting and trying to be a part of corporate America? Where are the corporate compliance training programs at? Has sexual harassment training just gotten ineffective or is it just not happening??
Cindy Knezevich, our VP of Marketing, has written a couple of blogs on the American Apparel disaster that are great reads. Check out: “Why BoDs and CEOs Need Workplace Harassment Training Too: American Apparel’s Board and CEO Violated Their Own Code of Ethics” and “More Fallout From American Apparel: CEO Refused Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training.”
Today I’d like to focus on Tinder. Let’s take a look at the situation.
Tinder and The Need for A Corporate Compliance Training Program
For those of you that are married or have been in a serious relationship for the last year or so, you might not be familiar with Tinder. It’s a streamlined alternative to online dating – the app allows users to quickly view men and women that are geographically close to them, assess whether they are attracted to them and swipe left if they are not interested and right if they are interested.
Ironically, an app that makes its money selling the idea of romance to its users is being plagued by a rocky romance of its own. Former Co-founder and VP of Marketing at Tinder, Whitney Wolfe, entered into a romantic relationship with Tinder’s Chief Marketing Officer Justin Mateen in 2012. When the relationship ended Mateen lashed out at Wolfe calling her a “desperate loser” and “a whore” in front of colleagues at work. Finally, Wolfe was stripped of her co-founder title under the advisement of Mateen, that having a “girl founder” would devalue the company.
Cough, cough. Excuse me?!?!?!
It almost seems too ridiculous to be true. In what world is calling someone a “desperate loser” or a “whore” acceptable – especially AT WORK?! And Mateen didn’t call Wolfe these names in private, his expletives were said in public – in work meetings and at work parties! Just out of curiosity I looked up Mateen on LinkedIn – after all, I thought, this really is so crazy maybe he has been living under a rock and has no concept of acceptable work behavior. His LinkedIn profile makes this a less viable option – as he attended USC’s Marshall School of Business. The guy has to have some smarts.
But, then I take pause again. Not only did Mateen call Wolfe demeaning names, he also suggested that having a “girl founder” would devalue the company. Yes, it’s true we have more male CEOs and executives than female, but to suggest that women are not as valuable is astonishing. When you hear the names HP, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Guardian and Yahoo! do you think ‘now those are companies I think less of?’ I doubt it! They are very successful companies, and each of them has a female CEO.
So where do we go from here? What is the answer?
Perhaps the answer is “don’t date people you work with”. Easy enough, right? Maybe if your company has a policy against inter-office dating… Maybe. But we’re all human and after college we meet people at work – it’s where we spend most of our time. Inter-office dating happens! So what can we do? Well for starters we can make sure that ALL of our employees (yes, even executives) participate in sexual harassment training. If someone refuses (i.e. Dov Charney), maybe it’s time to evaluate their position at the company. Are they really worth the risk of a potential multi-million dollar lawsuit and severe reputational damage? No. Sexual harassment training is not a joke and your employees need to understand that.
The other answer is SWIPE LEFT to the CMO of Tinder.