By Ali Tozier
When a big company buys little “mom & pop” stores, becoming a giant, and when that giant requires its employees to sign mandatory arbitration provisions, a black box can be created. The black box can keep the truth about workplace gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the dark, which proliferates the “good ole boy” culture of valuing women less than men.
In Taffy Brodessor-Akner’s recent article in the New York Times Magazine, “The Company That Sells Love to America Had a Dark Secret,” she writes about her investigation of Sterling Jewelers Inc.’s treatment of women over the years. She shines a light on how a system can allow abuse to remain in the dark, benefiting a culture that promotes males hitting on female associates at company retreats. Brodessor-Akner invites you to consider the underpinnings of America’s wage-gap problem, and why a regional vice president might say to a manager, “Put them in a push-up bra… that is how you’ll get sales.”
The author recognizes that since being sued, this giant jewelry company has changed some of its practices and now has some women at the top. However, she highlights the importance of reckoning with the past, writing, “That’s the nature of secrets. When they are found out, you have to deal with them.”
This story reminds us that sex discrimination is not just in Hollywood. It’s everywhere. And we have to shine a light on it.