Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Southfield — The #MeToo movement is more like the #NotYet movement in many boardrooms in the US.

Most companies are still not discussing sexual harassment at the board level because many directors do not consider it a problem at their company.

Female directors continue to cite this reluctance among male directors as an impediment to a full airing of the issue, according to a survey of directors at public and private companies.

The results, which update a survey from October, found that 57% of directors polled in February and March still had not had a boardroom discussion about the movement, according to theBoardlist and Qualtrics, which talked to 180 directors. In October, 77% of respondents said it had yet to be discussed.

"It’s interesting that even with all the fallout it’s still not been discussed in a majority of boards," said Jeska Kittenbrink, community director at theBoardlist. "The board members seem still not to have tackled it."

The October poll predated allegations by leading actresses of harassment and assault by producer Harvey Weinstein, which touched off the #MeToo movement and prompted the investigation and firing of many executives in media, finance, advertising and other fields.

Directors polled said only 22% of boards had agreed to plans of action. About 75% said they had taken no other actions, according to the survey.

Respondents, 64% of whom said they had experienced harassment in their careers, said the topic was "not seen as relevant" by their boards or there was a "lack of prioritisation" for preventing harassment. For some CEOs the topic was seen as "threatening".

Boards may be struggling with whether the entire debate can be avoided, Kittenbrink said. She said reluctant boards might be asking: "Is this just the thing that’s being talked about right now … and then it’s over?

"Or is this part of a strong movement towards more prioritisation, more equality and having these hard conversations? It’s hard to tell when you’re in the middle of it."

Bloomberg

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