Why aren’t these industries at the forefront of the current conversation, then? The answer seems to be in part because of the public scrutiny and media attention they receive, and the momentum that builds as more and more victims come forward with their stories. There are big names in politics and Hollywood and the news, and there is consistent interest in what is happening at the Ubers and Apples and Googles of the world. High-profile women, like Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and Gwyneth Paltrow, have shared their accounts. A trucking supervisor getting fired or a waitress getting better workplace protections rarely merits a headline.
Still, there’s a lesson for all industries to be learned about what is happening with the revelations and repercussions happening in news, politics, and tech. When it comes to harassment, transparency helps women, workplaces, and broader society recognize the problem of harassment, and react to it. But only to a point: There are Weinsteins everywhere, but only in a few industries is there a Weinstein Effect.
Sexual abuse is a consistent and pervasive feature of the modern workforce, but despite how consistent and pervasive harassment is, there is scant data and public information about it. Women tend to keep the knowledge of such incidents to themselves, for one. They more often than not do not report them, due to a fear of not being believed, a sexist culture in the workplace, a belief that nothing would happen or change, and reasonable concerns about retaliation. Indeed, they themselves often seem to forget these incidents or shut them out: The share of women who report being harassed increases if they are prompted to recall specific behaviors, like unwanted touching. It stands to reason that a given individual might not say she was sexually harassed, but could easily recount an incident in which a supervisor propositioned her or a customer assaulted her.
Within workplaces, too, a lack of recognition of the problem is common as well—helping foster a lack of accountability and a lack of repercussions for harassers. Take the case of Wieseltier, for instance. Numerous women have said that he had touched them, propositioned them, or made inappropriate sexual comments to them while he worked at The New Republic. (Wieseltier has apologized for “offenses” that made his former colleagues “feel demeaned and disrespected,” and Emerson Collective, which owns a majority share in The Atlantic, has cancelled his forthcoming publication.) In a piece by Jason Cherkis at HuffPost, former New Republic editors described a workplace culture in which male leaders declined to act on what was happening.
When incidents are reported to human resources, companies tend to keep them as quiet as possible as well. Nondisclosure agreements added to big-dollar settlements kept the behavior of Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly of Fox out of the news for years. Plus, companies often require accusers to go through a quiet arbitration process rather than seeking public recompense in a court of law. “I think it hinders the free flow of information,” Ellen Pao, who famously sued the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination, told Time about arbitration clauses. “It’s supposed to be designed to allow for faster, cheaper resolution. But it often ends up covering bad behavior.”