An Interview With Dr. Cristal Glangchai

Women hold almost 52% of all professional jobs, but in business women are only 25% of executive- and senior-level officials and managers and are only 6% of CEOs. Other professions are no better – in law, women are only 22% of partners and in academia, only 31% of full professors are women. In 2013, women only accounted for 6% of partners in venture capital firms. Does this imbalance of power hold the answer to why sexual harassment has been so rampant in the workplace? If more women held positions of power, would sexual harassment and gender discrimination be significantly reduced? How do we increase the number of female CEOs, law partners, and professors? I explored some of these issues and solutions with Dr. Cristal Glangchai, author of the recently published VentureGirls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow’s Leaders, CEO of VentureLab, teacher, and entrepreneurship expert.

Discrimination and Harassment Happen No Matter What Your Credentials Are

Dr. Cristal Glangchai

Dr. Glangchai has an impressive tech, science, and engineering background that stems from an egalitarian upbringing that her dad created for her and her sisters. Despite this, she has run into her fair share of gender discrimination and harassment. Dr. Glangchai grew frustrated and angry with what she saw: stereotypical requests for the only female engineer to get coffee and take notes, the self-doubt and intimidation she saw in her female university students compared to the male students, the absence of female tech CEOs, and being told “you don’t have enough gray hairs and we really don’t think a young girl like you can do this” when she sought to commercialize her graduate research to start a nanotechnology company.

Entrepreneurial Skills as a Solution

Despite being in the 21st century, nothing seemed to change, so Dr. Glangchai initiated her own solution at home with her 4-year old daughters. She started teaching her daughters entrepreneurial concepts that resulted in her daughters’ teachers noticing an increase in the girls’ class participation and willingness to explain lessons to other students. When she saw how effective the entrepreneurial concepts were for her daughters, she decided to found VentureLab and started writing VentureGirls so she could teach these skills to all girls and give them the confidence to pursue their passions.

It’s really about giving girls the confidence to believe in themselves and the ability to ignore the social pressures.”

She believes “we need to teach girls to be more adventurous like we do boys. We need to teach girls to brag about themselves.” While these may be small concepts, she adds that “it’s really building up this strength and confidence in our girls to pursue whatever they want to, but at the same time it’s showing our boys that everyone can do this and it’s not just about boys or girls.”

Awareness, Cultural Change, and Empowering Women and Girls

If the result of teaching a generation of girls these entrepreneurial concepts is more female leadership in business, what does that mean for our future work environments? Research shows that organizations that are male dominated, super hierarchical, and forgiving when it comes to bad behavior are more prone to sexual harassment and abuse. It is important to have female leaders because female leadership can help balance power within the organization and prevent hypermasculinity from taking over the organization’s culture.

Dr. Glangchai says that the increased awareness of sexual harassment and second-guessing women who come forward is beginning to change what companies will tolerate, with many already overcorrecting. However, she thinks “we’re going to get to an evening out point” and she believes that it has to be a cultural change. “We’re not going to solve it just with the awareness and the people who are already set in their ways are not going to change. For me, it’s a cultural revolution and it starts with our kids. And part of the goal of VentureGirls is to give girls the confidence to become leaders, but also teach boys that girls are equally capable.”

If you have been sexually harassed and discriminated against due to your gender, an important first step is to be confident about speaking up, tell the offender to stop the behavior, and report what happened to you. If your company has an employee handbook, it should say who you need to inform about the harassment or discrimination. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, you can learn more about your legal rights by consulting with an attorney.

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VentureGirls: Raising Entrepenurial Girls To Be Tomorrow’s Leaders explains how to unlock the creative genius of childhood for a lifetime. Now available at amazon.com

 

Q&A with Mediator Robert Dulberg

Whether you have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, in the middle of litigation, or set for trial, you may be invited to mediate your case. Once litigation has started, a judge might even order the parties to attend mediation. Renowned mediator Robert A. Dulberg from the alternative dispute resolution firm Salmon & Dulberg Dispute Resolution agreed to answer a few questions for us and share his advice on preparing for and attending mediation. Mr. Dulberg has mediated over 7,000 cases and is one of the most respected mediators in the South Florida legal community known for helping parties settle their cases.

Q: Do you think there are any instances in which mediation would not be beneficial in a sexual harassment or discrimination case?

Mediator Robert Dulberg

A: I don’t think there are instances where mediation would not be beneficial, although obviously mediation won’t be successful in every case. However, there are some special considerations for sexual harassment or discrimination cases. For example, the parties may want to forego a joint session, especially if the employer’s representative is the party who allegedly harassed or discriminated. The attorneys can present their opening without their client present if it would create unnecessary discomfort for the employee. Other than that, I see no reason why these cases cannot be mediated and I have, in fact, mediated many discrimination cases. Among the advantages are: it’s an opportunity for the “victim” to express his or her concerns, and for the employer to resolve the situation in a confidential setting.

Q: Do you think mediation is more beneficial before or after a complaint is filed in court?

A: I’m not sure that it’s true for every case, but frequently, mediation is more beneficial before the complaint is filed. For one thing, the attorneys’ fees and costs will likely be considerably less than after the parties have been litigating for a while. Additionally, the complaint and any ongoing litigation may create a situation where the parties’ positions have hardened and they are more invested in the litigation. That said, there are instances where it is necessary to file the complaint, e.g. where there is a need for a temporary injunction, or where some limited discovery needs to occur before the parties can make informed decisions.

Q: What do think is the biggest sticking point that often leads to impasse during mediation?

A: Reaching a resolution in mediation requires a commitment: to listen and learn, to be patient, and recognize that all parties’ interests have to be accommodated in order to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution. Being impatient can be a reason for an impasse. Another sticking point is where the parties have not adequately prepared or obtained necessary information to make a decision. As a sidelight, not having parties with adequate authority is another reason for an impasse.

Q: What do you see as the biggest mistake parties make during mediation?

A: I’ll start with the biggest mistake parties make before mediation: failure to prepare. During mediation, I think the biggest mistake parties make is not being willing to commit to negotiating until there is no further movement. I would prefer, as a mediator, to be criticized for trying too hard as opposed to giving up too easily. I always try to keep the parties talking. It’s also a frequent mistake for parties to show up without adequate authority to settle the case.

Q: What are your top 3 pieces of advice for individuals planning to go to mediation, either with or without an attorney?

A: (1) Prepare your presentation and your response to the other side’s presentation. (2) Manage your expectations. Remember both sides’ interests have to be accommodated, be realistic.(3) Read Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton.

An Interview with Immigration Attorney Carmen Arce

As the world hears about sexual harassment in Hollywood, the voices of immigrant women and their experiences have not been at the forefront of the discussion. Immigrant women who have come forward have done so at great personal risk, but their experiences may be more common than those of Hollywood actresses. I decided to look into this and sat down with Carmen Arce, the founder of Arce Immigration Law, P.A. in Miami, Florida. Ms. Arce is certified as an immigration expert by The Florida Bar and represents individuals, families, employers, and employees throughout the U.S. and abroad in all their immigration matters.

Immigrant Women are Especially Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment

Ms. Arce believes immigrant women are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment regardless of whether they have an employer sponsored visa, a pending application through a spouse, or they work as a domestic employee. Ms. Arce has noticed in Miami at least, that many

Latin American immigrants almost take it for granted that they are going to have to deal with sexual harassment.”

Even though immigrant women should not have to expect it, “they are used to it in their home countries so they don’t even bat an eye about it when it happens in the U.S.”

Carmen Arce

To make matters worse, many immigrant women don’t know about laws in the U.S. that can protect them from sexual harassment and abuse, even when the abuser or victim is not a U.S. citizen. “I don’t think that they’re aware of the laws and I don’t think many immigrant women even think the harassment is inappropriate. They may not be comfortable with it, but they are used to it unfortunately.” Ms. Arce believes immigrant women are not just subject to harassment by their employers, but by customers as well, “I’ve seen it in the workplace – I’ve seen it in smaller coffee shops, restaurants, with their bosses and patrons calling them in a derogatory way, but they don’t take any offense to it saying things like ‘wow you’re looking good mami.’ I don’t want to be called mami and I don’t think it’s very appropriate.”

 

Cultural Changes Are Needed in the Workplace

Ms. Arce thinks the cultural and social pressures that make some of what appears to be cultural acceptance of harassment changes with “it being in the news that it’s not ok, more women standing up for themselves, more men standing up for women in the workplace and saying ‘hey, that’s not correct – we’re not going to sexualize our employees.’” As an employer herself, Ms. Arce sets the tone in her firm and says in a small firm, “you set the rules by your example.” Ms. Arce also “wouldn’t hesitate to talk to an employee” if she ever saw or heard something inappropriate. Ms. Arce is right – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that the “cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.” Since many employers aren’t going to run their businesses like Ms. Arce, immigrant workers can get help from the EEOC. In one case, the EEOC secured a $582,000 settlement involving eight recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America who were physically and verbally sexually harassed by a Suffolk Laundry manager.

What Can Immigrant Women Do If They Experience Sexual Harassment at Work?

Immigrants are protected from sexual harassment and employment discrimination by federal and state civil rights laws and can file charges for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and national origin discrimination. In a recent case, the EEOC successfully obtained the authority to subpoena an employer in a discrimination case filed by an undocumented worker. Immigrant women may want to speak with their immigration attorney as well regarding the U Visa, a visa for victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement authorities. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to consult with an attorney about your legal rights.

While many claims of sexual harassment involve harassment by someone in a position of authority, the law also protects victims of sexual harassment by a co-worker.

If you believe that your co-worker is engaging in frequent, severe, and pervasive conduct that is physically threatening or humiliating, and it is interfering with your job performance, you should report it to your employer.  If your employer does not take sufficient action to put measures in place to stop the co-worker’s offensive conduct, you may have a claim for sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment created by the co-worker.

The Hostile Work Environment

There are certain standards to meet for you to have a valid hostile work environment claim against a co-worker.  When harassment is perpetrated by a co-worker as opposed to a supervisor or manager, the conduct complained of must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of the victim’s employment, and if the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive, the employer must have failed to take adequate action to remedy the situation.

To determine whether the co-worker’s conduct is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment, courts look at four factors:

(1) the frequency of the conduct;

(2) the severity of the conduct;

(3) whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating; and

(4) whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the employee’s job performance.

Do Flirting and Isolated Incidents Create a Hostile Work Environment?

Simple teasing or mere flirtation, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) do not make up a valid claim of sexual harassment. The offensive conduct must be experienced regularly. For example, in one case reported in Florida, four isolated incidents of a co-worker brushing up against the other and making inappropriate gestures was not severe or pervasive because the isolated incidents took place within the span of two and a half years and the conduct did not affect the victim in her work.

Even if a victim can establish that a co-worker’s conduct was severe, pervasive, frequent, and unreasonably interfered with his or her work, a victim still needs to establish that the employer did not address the victim’s complaints.  Once the victim reports the offensive conduct of the co-worker to the employer, the employer must take corrective action that is immediate, appropriate, and reasonably likely to stop the harassment.  For example, an employer that confronts the co-worker using an escalating pattern of discipline, gives verbal warnings, and changes the two co-workers’ work schedules to avoid their contact satisfies an employer’s obligation to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment.

Are you the victim of inappropriate conduct by a co-worker that happens on a regular basis? Have you reported it to your employer? How did the employer respond? We can help you in figuring out whether you have a claim for sexual harassment perpetrated by co-worker. You should feel safe in calling us to listen to your story.