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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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In theory, sexual harassment is a gender neutral offense. Men can sexually harass women and women can sexually harass men. However, statistics show that the majority of sexual harassment claims are brought by women. People of the same sex can also sexually harass each other as long as the harassment is based on sex rather than gender orientation. Title VII can be claimed in such cases as it protects against discrimination on the basis of sex.

Sexual harassment remains prevalent in the modern workplace and one that requires concerted efforts by progressively minded companies and individuals if we wish to dramatically improve the work experience of so many long-suffering employees. Recent reports of a high-profile Hollywood producer's antics serve to highlight that no workplace or industry is immune to the unwarranted sexual advances of delinquent managers, supervisors, colleagues and clients.

Every business should consider how its current policies and practices may inadvertently contribute to a culture of acceptance or denial of this practice. The recent social media #MeToo campaign, where victims of sexual harassment identified themselves using the hashtag, emphasized the magnitude of the problem. Within one day, Twitter confirmed that #MeToo had been tweeted more than a half a million times. Sexual harassment is a serious issue which needs to be proactively tackled and prevented by companies.

There are a number of steps companies can take to address sexual harassment:

To reduce and eliminate sexual harassment:

1. Train employees - Semi-annual training sessions could be held for employees. These sessions should educate employees on what welcome and unwelcome behavior is. The company complaint procedure should be reviewed and employees should be encouraged to use it if needed. Educating employees on sexual harassment is an important step to eliminating it. Trainings on bystander intervention should be also made mandatory for employees.

2. A clear sexual harassment policy must be adopted which should be specific and watertight. The policy must define sexual harassment and state a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints. It should be stated clearly that the company will not tolerate sexual harassment and anyone found guilty of this act will have their contracts terminated.

3. Supervisor and Manager trainings - Semi-annual training sessions for supervisors and managers should be carried out. These sessions should be completely autonomous from employee training sessions. These sessions should be geared towards understanding the sexual harassment policies and the consequences as well as train supervisors and managers how to deal with complaints from their subordinates.

To address effectively instances of sexual harassment that do occur:

It is essential to make sure that the organizations policy relative to sexual harassment must be understood by all employees. Everyone should be informed of the strict repercussions of such behavior. When an employee complains that he or she is experiencing sexual harassment of any type, the employer has a legal and ethical obligation to thoroughly investigate the charges. To address effectively instances of sexual harassment a company should follow the following procedure:

1. Provide different ways in which an employee can make a formal charge or complaint that is confidential. There should be alternatives to making complains other than to the employees supervisors or managers. This can be through Human resources or even the CEO or president of the company.

2. Assign an independent staff member to process the complaint. This person should have undergone specialized trainings and must be knowledgeable about the organization, the people and the policies.

3. Map out a plan according to the organization's policy to investigate the situation and people involved in the incident.

4. The company should ensure that the people registering the complaint should be guaranteed safety from any form of retaliation.

5. Strict action must be taken after the investigation is complete and consultations with the company's attorney if the person accused is found guilty.

6. Assure that no further incidents occur by following up, and documenting your follow-up. with the employee who made the original harassment claim.

I believe companies must help victim follow up with legal action against the person responsible for sexual harassment. A sexual harassment policy is essential in any workplace, but even more so is how the employer gives effect to it. Employers should ensure that some level of induction or training on harassment and discrimination is provided to employees, especially newly hired staff. Creating an audit trail of complaints lodged and steps taken could avoid some of the difficulties faced by the employer. Perhaps a process similar to a whistleblowing hotline, managed externally, could be used to allow staff to report incidents of sexual harassment.

All businesses should adopt a tough stance on sexual harassment and create a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. This is not only critical from a legal and reputational risk perspective, but also is key to ensuring we change perceptions and eradicate this abominable behavior.

Journal Questions:  Choose some or all of these to discuss: What social and ethical concerns were raised in regard to images of women in advertising, both in the videos and in our class discussion?  Which (if any) of these concerns are legitimate social or ethical concerns, and why?  What can/should be done about these concerns, assuming you identified what you consider any legitimate concerns?  Which if any of these concerns are not legitimate social or ethical concerns, and why?  What, if anything, should companies do to address this issue in how they advertise?

Since the introduction of advertising many centuries ago, women have been objectified, and in some instances, insulted or degraded. This fact has been highlighted in the two videos watched in class today.

Ted Talk 1 by Jean Kilbourne.

Jean Kilbourne has studied print ads since the 1960's, examining ways in which women are portrayed in American advertising. In more recent decades, the pressure on women to be young, thin, beautiful is more intense than ever before. She has cited the photo manipulation powers of Photoshop, which allows advertisers to display ads with images of women that are not only unrealistic, but also poisonous according to Kilbourne. The computer-altered images distort society's expectations for the female body and encourage women to model their self-image on artificial models and for both sexes to accept this as normal.

With the help of many real world examples, Kilbourne shares how advertisements insult and objectify women's bodies, and how these advertisements affect ideas of female beauty, expectations for female physical perfection and reinforce the idea that women are mere objects for male sexual desire and use.

TED Talk 2 by Renee Engeln:

Dr. Engeln discusses how girls grow up hearing both implicit and explicit messages suggesting that the most important attribute they can strive for is beauty. The focus on beauty directs cognitive resources away from other more important goals. Dr. Engeln considers whether there is hope for treating the epidemic of beauty sickness and what it might be like to live in a world where women feel free to spend less time in front of the mirror and more time changing the world. She claims that beauty sickness is the constant worry over outside appearances and a compulsion to perfect the body and how it is viewed by others. Engeln clarified in her talk that she does not want people to tell little girls they look ugly, either. She recommended complimenting other positive qualities such as being smart, persistent, generous and hardworking. Reaffirming these characteristics will help to avoid the epidemic of beauty sickness among young women. Although she admitted men can suffer from this illness as well, she said women spend more time and money on it. She added that women are at a 10 times greater risk of anorexia and bulimia. Dr. Engeln emphasized that beauty is a natural thing people look for around them. However, she argued, a woman cannot consistently monitor her appearance and engage with her environment.

I agree that advertising, marketing, and the fashion industry have created a new type of woman that does not exist in the real world. The women in ads are not real. They are a creation of an industry obsessed with perfection, and selling products to women that they claim will help them achieve the impossible goal they have set. The main purpose of the advertisements is to create a need and then, provide a product to fill that need. This can be targeted at even men. By displaying these impossible women in cologne or beer ads, they target men who would purchase these products because they associate these women with those products. Women, on the other hand, may buy certain clothes, foods and makeup products, to attempt to look like these photo shopped women. The negative effects that these advertisements have are of concern.

1. Excessive Thinness - Advertising and commercials depict excessively thin women and these unhealthy body images in advertising, regardless of what they are being used to sell, project an unrealistic image of women's body weight. These advertisements contribute to the development of anorexia, bulimia and other serious eating disorders in women.

2. The need to look young - Along with body weight issues, advertisements often depict very young and impossibly beautiful women. As women get older, they feel pressure to look younger, and revert to using unhealthy products, and in many cases, surgeries.

3. Sexual Exploitation - Many advertisements use sexually explicit imagery to help sell their products. While sexiness in and of itself isn't harmful, the trend of objectification and exploitation in advertising is damaging. Seeing a woman appear a certain way, can send the message that women should act submissive and men come to expect that in their relationships with the opposite sex.

4. Lack of concentration - As Dr. Engeln cited, beauty sickness can distract women from engaging in other activities and diverts their cognitive resources. This can cause women with beauty sickness to not live up to their true potential.

Some companies have taken steps to address this issue already. Several brands, including Dove and Aerie, have tried to move away from typical images of perfection. They claim to be Photoshop-free, and display real, diverse women in their advertisements. Of course, they still use attractive women in their campaigns, because at the end of the day, buyers are still superficial to a degree. It is important for advertisement agencies to start bringing about a change. The should try and steer their client away from typical, photo-shopped images of women. It is impossible for a client to buy a sexist or perfectionist ad if the agency refuses to produce one. Advertising agencies need to move away from this form of advertising and gauge what other factors to drive their clients and their customers.

I believe advertisements are more a result of the culture we live in. Objectifying women and portraying a sense of a perfect woman have long been present even before mass media advertising started. Selling sex in advertisements is just a result of what sells within this culture. Education is the key to solving these problems in the long term. It is essential to re inforce the fact, in both men and women, that it is okay to not have that perfect, unachievable body. Bringing in regulations and campaigns can make a difference in the short term, but instilling a culture of acceptance and respect is the only way this problem can be tackled. If there isn't a market to sell these kind of images and advertisements to, neither advertisers nor companies will invest in trying to associate those with their products.

Journal Questions:  For today's class, frame your own journal questions on the topic, and discuss/answer them.  The two obvious, easy sources for these questions are the readings you chose and the readings that others raised during the class session.

Article 1 - The Burning Truth Behind an E-Waste Dump in Africa

Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought are destined to create a flood of dangerous "e-waste" that is being dumped illegally in developing countries. The article discusses the harmful repercussions of e-waste and the environmental damage caused when trying to recycle copper from e-waste by burning the components. This article talks about a particular city in Ghana - Agbogbloshie, which holds numerous small shed holding recycling businesses'. The owners, their families and employees manually dismantle everything from automobiles to microwave ovens.

Over the last half century, technologies have been developed to do that separation in an environmentally sound manner. But even the lowest-cost solutions tend to be too expensive for Ghana's capital-poor recyclers. And if they were affordable, green methods would still be too slow compared to setting the wire on fire and burning off the insulation.

How do you classify e-waste?

E-waste comprises of wastes generated from used electronic devices and household appliances which are not fit for their original intended use and are destined for recovery, recycling or disposal. Such wastes encompasses wide range of electrical and electronic devices such as computers, hand held cellular phones, personal stereos, including large household appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners etc. E-wastes contain over 1000 different substances many of which are toxic and potentially hazardous to the environment and human health, if these are not handled in an environmentally sound manner

Why is E-Waste a big problem?

Electronic waste has become a serious cause of concern as it poses an imminent threat to the environment. The most important thing is that it is growing at an alarming rate. Rapid changes in technology is leading to an increase in volume of e-waste. Apart from the changes in technology, some other social reasons that are responsible for e-waste generation, are the increase in purchasing capacity and a wider selection of goods. This has resulted to frequent replacement of cell-phones, TV's, tablets, resulting in a greater generation of e-waste.

Impact of E-waste on the environment:

The effects of improper disposal of this E-waste on the environment are little known; these impacts nonetheless pose very real threats and dangers to the global environment at large.

Improper disposal of these electronic wastes affect the soil, air, and water components of the environment.

Effects on air - One of the most common effect of E-waste on air is through air pollution. Many rudimentary e-waste "processing plants" are not ethically run - or safe. For example, some e-waste traffickers burn open computer wires in order to get to the copper inside - a valuable commodity. The open burning can release hydrocarbons into the air, while the chemical stripping of gold-plated computer chips leads to emissions of brominated dioxins and heavy metals. A recent study of the environmental effects of the largest e-waste landfill in the world in Guiyu, China, found airborne dioxins to be 100 times more prevalent than previously measured.

Effects on water - When electronics containing heavy metals such as lead, barium, mercury, lithium (found in mobile phone and computer batteries), etc., are improperly disposed, these heavy metals leach through the soil to reach groundwater channels which eventually run to the surface as streams or small ponds of water. Local communities often depend on these bodies of water and the groundwater. Apart from these chemicals resulting in the death of some of the plants and animals that exist in the water, intake of the contaminated water by humans and land animals results in lead poisoning. Some of these heavy metals are also carcinogenic.

Effects on soil -  Toxic heavy metals and chemicals from e-waste enter the soil to the crop and food pathway, one of the most significant routes for heavy metals' exposure to humans. These chemicals are not biodegradable and they persist in the environment for long periods of time, increasing the risk of exposure.

How do we reduce environment damage by e-waste?

Government regulations must be strictly enforced to prevent e-waste generated in developed countries from being illegally dumped in developing nations. Laws and information should be provided regarding reduced usage, extend usage, re-use and recycling of electronics.

a. Reduce - The first thing is to consider whether you really need a new device. Products are often marketed as 'must have' and there can be a lot of peer pressure to have the latest device. But often this doesn't take into account the practical use of the device. Always chasing the latest technology is a never-ending quest - there will always be a new product or an upgrade. Think about whether you really need the additional options on a new device.

b. Extend Use - You can extend the life of your electronic device in several ways. Make sure you that look after it. Buying a case for your laptop or tablet helps to protect it from bumps and scrapes, while screen protectors can minimize the risks of cracking or damaging the screen of a computer, tablet of smartphone.

c. Re-Use - If you have decided to get a new device, think about who may benefit from receiving your old one. Charitable organizations, schools, friends and family members may be grateful to receive a donation of electronic equipment

d. Recycle - Many of the components and materials in electronic devices can be recycled, such as the metal in wiring and circuit boards. By recycling your e-waste you ensure that any usable material is extracted for another purpose, so reducing the use of raw materials, saving resources that would go into manufacturing new products - including water and manpower - and preventing dangerous chemicals going into landfill. Many local authorities have dedicated schemes for recycling e-waste, so check with your local council. Sometimes manufacturers themselves have schemes to take back unwanted devices for recycling.

Article 2 - Ships must kill off the beasties in the ballast water | New Scientist

What is Ballast water?

Ballast water is water carried in ships' ballast tanks to improve stability, balance and trim. It is taken up or discharged when cargo is unloaded or loaded, or when a ship needs extra stability in foul weather. When ships take on ballast water, plants and animals that live in the ocean are also picked up. Discharging this ballast water releases these organisms into new areas where they can become marine pests. The discharge of water from ballast tanks has been responsible for the introduction of species that cause environmental and economic damage. The International convention for the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments in 2004 tries to deal with this environmental problem, by regulating the discharge and charge of ballast water, but this still continues to be a major problem in marine environmental protection.

Why is Ballast water a problem?

Thirty years ago, a ship from North America sailed up the Bosphorus and dumped ballast water containing comb jellyfish from back home. The invader - Mnemiopsis leidyi - went crazy, gobbling up plankton and triggering a catastrophic decline in marine life, including commercial fisheries. At one point, its biomass reached a billion tons, 10 times the world's annual fish landings. Around a decade later an unknown ship, probably from the Bay of Bengal, discharged ballast water into the coastal waters of Peru, releasing a strain of cholera that contaminated shellfish. People ate the shellfish and the disease spread, killing 12,000 across Latin America.

While ballast water remains indispensable for safe, secure and effectual shipping operations, it has been scientifically researched and proven by expert authorities that ballast water is a significant path for the transfer of harmful and equally damaging aquatic organisms and other pathogens that pose serious ecological, economic and health problems. The movement of vessels around the world requires the intake of ballast water to give them a safe degree of stability. This disposal of water, when it takes place within ports and harbors is classed as a waste product.

The effects of introducing new animal and plants can be almost undetectable, or conversely they can completely dominate and displace native communities. Severe cases of introduced non-native organisms include the European zebra mussel into the North American lakes, causing billions of dollars' worth of damage due to fouling, and a comb jelly into the Black Sea, causing the near extinction of anchovy and sprat fisheries. The bloom forming algae Gymnodimium, which causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, was introduced into Australian waters from Japan.

How can we mitigate the risk to human and marine life?

At the moment, Ballast water exchange is a requirement. The ballast water exchange is a process by which ships fully discharge the water they carry in their tanks and reload the water a few times during long voyages. This helps reduce the risks, but research indicates that this still affects marine life and can lead to the extinction of several species. A Ballast water treatment system is in no way a mature technology, but it has been implemented by some ship owners to remove and destroy/inactive biological organisms (zooplankton, algae, bacteria) from ballast water. These are expensive systems to install on ships and owners need to spend large amounts of capital investment to meet a need that is not legally required at the moment. I believe that these treatment plants need to become a requirement for every ship, old or new. Owners must be required to install these systems to carry about cross country operations. International marine regulations  take a long time to come into effect due to required compliance from all member nations. I believe companies are ethically obliged to install systems for the protection of marine life. This is a serious issue that is slowly affecting all of us and will continue to grow as global trade increases. Developed countries have started taking initiatives to demand stringent treatment methods before ships can enter their coastal waters. Laws enforced by developed countries as well as larger shipping companies taking the initiative to install ballast water treatment systems, will help reduce this threat to marine life.

Journal Questions for Both Last Week's and This Week's Classes:  

What are the implications of the Bertrand and Mullainathan study?

Bertrand and Mullainathan's study, from the paper published back in 2003, suggests significant discrimination against African-American names. The researchers, performed an experiment where they responded with fictitious resumes to help wanted ads in Boston and Chicago papers. According to their study, white names received 50% more callbacks for interviews. Their study suggests that discrimination plays an important role in why African Americans do poorly in the labor market. In all circumstances, applicants with African American names received far fewer callbacks for each resume they sent out. This study implies that employers still discriminate against African Americans during their hiring process. There is still in bias in employer's minds regarding the performance and commitment of an African American candidate to do the job even though he or she is as qualified as someone of another race.

How can business, government, and society address the issues raised in the study?  

The government can set new laws and regulations to address the issues raised in this study but that won't help resolve the unconscious bias amongst hiring managers. A way for authorities to mitigate this issue could be to reserve a specific number of job positions for minorities. This could help force inclusion in companies and result in acceptance of other races in society. There could be drawbacks to this. In India for example, reservation based on the caste system was introduced in 1947. It was a great idea to start with to help give underprivileged communities and minorities an opportunity to education and employment. Today, this same reservation system exists and has become a political agenda. People who don't require these opportunities still take advantage of the system that was established over 70 years ago. This could be one of the risks of enforcing a reservation system for minorities in the U.S.

I believe this issue can be more effectively addressed by companies themselves. They could enforce methods like:

1. Trainings - Can be carried out by the company to ensure hiring managers do not fall prey to unconscious bias. Frequent and in depth trainings in avoiding bias and overcoming discrimination to achieve set goals of diversity within a company could help resolve hiring discrimination.

2. Software's to screen candidates - Currently some companies have already started doing this to ensure only the best candidates will get an opportunity without any form of bias. Artificial intelligence can be used as technology advances to make even better decisions to secure eligible candidates.

3. Blind hiring - This process could involve just resumes where managers would not be able to determine the race or gender of the candidate. Even interviews could be held virtually with voice modulating software to prevent any form of discrimination in the hiring process.

Related to the mini-case discussed in class today: Is non-discrimination on the basis of classifications such as those protected under in the EEOC reading a fundamental universal right, regardless of the country/location/culture/religious context of a business or its home country?  Or is such non-discrimination variable as a right, depending on culture, etc.?  What if customers in a particular country or culture have a discriminatory preference-for example, if customers in a particular industry or culture statistically have a greater preference for interaction with someone of a specific gender, race, nationality, etc.?  Should companies be permitted to consider such a customer preference in their hiring and employment practices?  Why or why not?

Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person's race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. I believe that this should be enforced regardless of the country/location/culture/religious context of a business or its home country.

In the case, "Protecting Against Birth Defects", discussed in class, the company had policies that prohibited women without proof of infertility from working with chemicals associated with birth defects. I disagree with the policy of this company because it discriminates on the basis of gender. Although the risks associated with the children of women working around these chemicals was higher, the offspring's of men also faced similar risks. It is unfair to have this policy in place only for women. A fair policy would have been demanding proof of infertility irrespective of gender. The company will need to protect itself from future litigations if a child was born with defects. Although the company could have clearly stated the risks involved to all employees regarding birth defects, it does not protect the company against future lawsuits by the offspring's of these workers.

Discrimination against gender or race in any culture should be legally prohibited regardless of country or culture. When it comes to customer preference, as seen in the second case where the less qualified man was considered to be hired over the more qualified woman, the question for the company lies in who will create greater value for the shareholders? In Japanese culture, women are not typically seen as sales personnel and this could have led to a loss in sales for the company. I believe that since this isn't a common occurrence, it wouldn't be fair for the qualified woman to lose the opportunity for the job just due to her gender. If customers did in fact not respond well to the fact that she was a woman and the company lost sales due to this, it would be fair for the company to hire the man. In this case, I would suggest hiring both the candidates on a trial bases and the better performer should get the job. The woman would definitely have to overcome more hurdles than the man, but for the company, the bottom line would matter. A company's duty is to its shareholders, but it cannot ignore other stakeholders in the process. I also believe that perceptions and customers preferences evolve, and hiring a woman might lead to a short term loss, but if the woman is given enough time to prove herself and change customer preferences, this could lead to the long term benefits of having a more qualified employee.

I do believe customer preferences should be considered in the hiring practice but only if it has proven effects on the economic value generated by the decision. Discrimination based on gender, race, color, sex or national origin should not be permitted anywhere in the world. Education is the key to changing customer preferences, perceptions and culture to enable people all around the world to treat every human equally. This starts with a change in mindset and I believe this will eventually be instilled in the generations to come. As Sheryl Sandberg famously said "In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

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