Table of Experts:  Women Leading the Way

Liz Rita, CEO and Senior Investigator at Investigations Law Group, recently participated in a Denver Business Journal panel discussion, titled “Table of Experts:  Women Leading the Way.”  As a panelist, Liz shared her early career experiences, the importance of finding positive mentors, and the changing workplace cultures in light of the #metoo movement.

An excerpt from the panel discussion:

We live and work in the era of #MeToo. How do you see employers evolving their cultures in response?

RITA: It’s only been a year since #MeToo started. In many ways it seems like this discussion started longer ago than that, but that is because this is not a new issue. That said, some things have definitely changed. Certainly, there is less stigmas for people coming forward to raise concerns. That’s a good thing. Businesses are starting to look at sexual harassment as a greater potential risk than just legal liability. They’re looking at reputational harm and losing employees in a highly competitive job market. They’re looking at the health of their culture and investing in proactive measures to create intentional cultures. One really positive thing I’m seeing is a shift away from the company values posted on the wall (that people forget about) to having values that the company tries to inculcate in their culture and really tries to live. I think that organizations are starting to realize the ROI of having a workplace culture where everyone can perform their best work every day. The #MeToo movement has had a positive influence for women and other underrepresented groups who, in many cases, are thriving. Businesses are sensitive about the cost to their business when things go wrong.

Research shows organizations with women in leadership perform better financially and there is a positive economic impact when things are done “right.” We’re seeing more companies outsource their investigations – particularly in high stakes or high visibility cases – because they realize the necessity of having experts do the work. This is good, not only in terms of getting effective investigations done, but can go a long way toward building stakeholder trust in the process.

There’s still a long way to go. When you talk about the classic chronology where a woman comes forward with a harassment complaint and her career is essentially ruined, that still happens. The EEOC statistic is that 70% of the people who come forward with a complaint are retaliated against in some way. This is a huge concern. Additionally, we are seeing a trend where some men in the workplace are not mentoring women or including women in projects due to a perceived risk of a complaint. This is also an obvious problem.

At the end of the day, businesses realizing that they want and need their people to be able to come to their office and do their best work without the fear of being harassed or treated differently because of who they are. And they are investing in creating just these kinds of workplaces. To me, this bodes well in terms of business culture.

Read the whole transcript from the panel discussion at Denver Business Journal.