I think that might depend on how old you are. Though Ailes's alleged behavior lacked finesse even by the antiquated standards of the 1980s, I bet many women in the pre-Antia Hill era experienced or witnessed some icky stuff that would be considered unthinkable today. (Ailes resigned recently, after the network hired Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison to investigate the allegations.)
I know I've experienced my share as an associate—like the partner who kissed me on the lips after a night out with clients. And so have some of my peers—like my friend Cheryl who was regularly followed home by a partner after work.
Did any of us complain? Of course not. Back then, there was no recourse. No women or diversity groups at firms. Not even an HR manager.
Now that we live in a much more enlightened age, is the heavy-handed type of harassment that Ailes allegedly practiced still alive?
"From everything I've heard from women in the current workplace, the answer is, thankfully, no," says Helen Wan, the author of The Partner Track, and a former lawyer at Paul Weiss and Time, Inc. "Not a lot of people seem to encounter that level of behavior any more."
Maybe not in Big Law, agrees Kamee Verdrager, who's suing Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, for sexual discrimination. "I think the days of the movie 9 to 5 and patting someone on the butt out in the open are over," she says, "but I also think there is a huge disparity along socioeconomic and educational lines.
Which is not to say that sexual harassment is dead in polite places like firms or corporations; it's just a lot more subtle. "Lawyers are so cover-your-ass that they would never say something that they could be nailed on," says a female associate at a law firm. "But some are still creepy." And "creepy," chauvinistic behavior still goes unpunished, particularly if it's a partner who's engaging in it, she says.
Part of the reason bad behavior by powerful men continues is that women are reluctant to report it—and for good reason. Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode writes in Harvard Business Review:
Research in What Women Want indicates that only about 5-15 percent of victims formally complain of harassment and only 3 percent of cases end up in litigation. Major barriers to reporting include guilt, shame, fears of retaliation, concerns about loss of privacy, and doubts that an effective response will be forthcoming.
Gretchen Carlson faced criticisms and retaliation when she raised her accusations against Ailes. She was labeled a bitter employee. Plus, prominent female Fox personalities lined up to support Ailes, rebutting her accusations. Carlson ultimately prevailed because so many other women joined in levying similar charges against Ailes, including Fox star anchor Megyn Kelly, writes Rhode.
So what happens if you're the lone voice? Well, the odds are much more daunting. Verdrager, for one, has been fighting Mintz Levin for over seven years.
Remember Donald Trump's response to the Ailes mess? Asked about what should be done if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed at work, Trump answered that he thought she should get out and find another job.
That response was criticized for putting the onus on the woman to bury the hatchet and move on. It was certainly unfair, and it missed the point.
But is it a more practical response?