One Standard For Sexual Harassment Please


Ever since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke, new similar accusations have been emerging everyday around powerful men in entertainment, politics, journalism and the corporate world. Whether it’s on Twitter at  #MeToo, or at tell-all press conferences, a lot of successful, powerful men were caught and shamed.

In the U.S., however, where every person seems to be either a Democrat or Republican, the discussion has gone awry – Republicans would immediately condemn Democrat offenders such as Senator Al Franken while Democrats were relentless with Alabama’s former state judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore. So, even the sexual harassment discussions have become a part of partisan politics. But people are missing a very important point – there should only be one standard for sexual harassment: the behaviour is just plainly wrong and it doesn’t matter which political party does the predator belong to!

So when columnist Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times said that she spent all weekend feeling guilty that she had called for Senator Al Franken’s resignation because she considered him an “otherwise decent man,” my reaction was why? Why would anybody and any woman have a different standard for a politician who’s an ally when he, like all the other accused sexual predators of the opposition party, made equally deplorable mistakes? No sexual predator or harasser can, in any way, be considered as decent and he should rightly be asked to resign. In fact, calling for the resignation of Al Franken is as important as barring Roy Moore from being admitted into the Senate.

We all tend to defend men we like. I used to adore Kevin Spacey because of his acting skills and Shakespearean knowledge. But his behaviour towards young men in the last three decades should really put him in a different light among his fans. Defenders of the various offenders started to put predatory behaviours into different categories – Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation is not comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism; the groping Franken has been accused of is not in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors.Unfortunately, there really is no difference and we should not judge them according to the severity of their offences. They were all wrong, plain and simple.

I further disagree with Kate Harding who made this case in The Washington Post last week. She wrote that Democratic sexual offenders may be flawed, but they are the men who “regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.” But if feminists are asking  for the pardon of sexual predators so that those men could remain in the pool of people who could keep on protecting women’s rights, they are simply enabling these men to continue to be hypocrites.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times was never my favourite journalist, but she does have a point when she said that the Democrats and the world should never have forgiven Bill Clinton for his sexual misdeeds when he was President. She asked in her article last Sunday, “The Hillary Effect“: “Would feminists and liberals make the same Faustian bargain they made in 1998: protect Bill on his regressive behavior toward women because the Clintons have progressive policies toward women?” She went on to say that both the left and the right rushed in to twist the sex scandals for their own ideological ends. Unfortunately, the stench of hypocrisy still overpowers the perfume of justice after all these years.

In fact, without any proof, I would venture to say that one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton failed to get as many women’s votes in the elections last year was because of Bill Clinton’s constant lies about never having had sexual relationships with women from Monica Lewinsky to Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey; and Hillary’s efforts to stand by her man and discredit the women accusers. Hillary’s latest book “What Happened” blamed a lot of people in addition to herself for why she lost the Presidential campaign. But what she did not mention in the book was that her unwavering love for her husband had made her a hypocritical defender of women’s rights. Many women voters, therefore, did not trust her.

Most of the men accused of sexual harassment, so far, have been predominantly baby boomers. I don’t buy the argument that boomer men do not understand the proper behaviour towards women because they are of an older generation. Nor do I agree with Canada’s former interim Leader of the Opposition, Rona Ambrose’s recommendation that all judges should be given a sexual sensitivity training. The proposed JUST Act, which would ensure that any judge who presided over a sexual assault case would receive proper training in the law and also in rape mythology, stereotypes and bias, might eventually be passed as law in the Senate. But I believe that if judges, like former Calgary judge Robin Camp, did not know that the derogatory comments he made to a complainant  (“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”) while questioning her during a sexual assault trial last year were wrong, then he should not be reinstated no matter how much subsequent sensitivity training he has received. It is also important for boomer parents to get this right before they can educate their sons and grandsons on how to respect women and their rights.

All in all, we should be pleased that we’re having a moment of awakening on sexual harassment, and it is possible that this will turn out to have been a turning point. However, when it comes to the standard for upholding women’s rights against sexual harassment, it is important to bear in mind that there should only be one, same standard for all men, no matter what their political affiliations, religions, races or age demographics are.


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Big Brother Should Restrain Distracted Pedestrians

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I fully support Ontario MPP Yvan Baker’s recommendation to ban people from looking at their phones while crossing the road even though there is widespread criticism that such legislation is equivalent to blaming pedestrians for being hit by drivers. But both drivers and pedestrians have an equal responsibility to keep our roads safe. If drivers are being fined for distracted driving, then pedestrians should also undergo the same discipline to focus on what’s ahead of them when crossing the road.

Although there is not enough research to measure how dangerous it is to walk while looking at a phone or other device, some research suggests that distracted pedestrians put themselves at greater risk. Other analysis says the problem is very small. According to NDP transportation critic Cheri DiNovo, most of the pedestrians that have been killed on the road have been seniors who are not known for talking on their cellphones while walking across the street. But I have seen too many pedestrians – boomers, seniors and millennials alike – looking at their devices and not paying attention to traffic when crossing the road. I have also heard many horror stories how distracted pedestrians accidentally fell into a manhole and seriously hurt themselves because they were not paying attention. A friend’s mother also got killed by a car on a narrow suburban street in the dark while crossing the road.

The Globe and Mail reported that Baker’s recommendation came less than a week after Honolulu enacted a similar law, raising the ire of pedestrian advocates around the world. Baker’s private member’s bill, which is not scheduled for debate until March, generated a lukewarm response from Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. The minister stressed that people should be cautious when walking, and that doing it while distracted is unwise, but noted that legislation addressing this was not included in a road safety bill recently unveiled by the government.

Baker is proposing fines for crossing the road while using a phone or “electronic entertainment device.” The penalties would start at $50, for a first offence, and rise to $125 by a third offence. Municipalities would be allowed to opt out. The bill would not cover people who have started a phone call before they began crossing the road which I thought is a loophole in itself – why not ask all pedestrians to NOT cross the road if they are already on the phone? The MPP was backed at this recent announcement by the Ontario Safety League and pointed to reports by the provincial coroner and Toronto Public Health that suggested a greater risk for pedestrians who are distracted. In a 2012 report, the coroner stated that approximately 20 percent of pedestrians killed may have had some form of distraction, such as using a cell phone, an MP3 player, a mobile device, pushing a shopping cart, walking a dog, or riding a skateboard.

In 2016, Toronto had its deadliest year for pedestrians in more than a decade. According to a Globe and Mail tally, 46 pedestrians were killed that year and the majority of these victims were 65 and older, in spite of this group representing only 14 percent of the population. In most cases, the driver was deemed at fault. But prevention is always better than cure – Toronto should follow Honolulu’s example before this becomes a real problem.

Honolulu’s law, which has just taken effect, allows the police to fine pedestrians up to U.S.$35 for viewing their electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county. Honolulu is the first major city to enact such a ban. According to the City Council member who proposed the bill, pedestrians will share the responsibility for their safety with motorists. In the U.S., pedestrian deaths in 2016 spiked nine percent from the year before, rising to 5,987, the highest toll on American roads since 1990, according to federal data. A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that one reason may be the sharp rise in smartphone use. Even a lot of people know it’s risky, they still use the time walking to and from meetings and business lunches to catch up on calls, texts and emails. They convince themselves that this text is important.

There is a dearth of data directly linking distracted walking to pedestrian injuries and deaths, but it seems to be a global problem too. According to the World Health Organization’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, preliminary studies gave a hint to unsafe behaviour. People who text and walk, for example, are nearly four times as likely to engage in at least one dangerous action, like jaywalking or not looking both ways, and take 18 percent more time to cross a street than undistracted pedestrians. Other U.S. cities are also taking similar measures. In September, San Mateo County, California, passed a resolution prohibiting pedestrians’ use of cellphones while crossing streets. The resolution is expected to go to the California Legislature for statewide consideration in January. Also in September, New York passed a law that directs New York City to study its efforts to educate the public on the dangers of distracted walking.

The Europeans have the same problem but are taking a different approach. The Globe and Mail reported that Bodegraven, a small town near Amsterdam, embedded LED-illuminated strips in the crosswalk at a busy intersection – right in the sight of people staring at their phones. When the traffic lights turn red or green, so do the lights at ground level, alerting pedestrians when it’s safe to cross. If it’s successful, the town hopes to install the lights at more intersections and on bike lanes, and offer them to other cities.

In Augsburg, Germany, similar lights were installed last year after a teenager using her smartphone was struck and seriously injured by a tram when she walked onto the tracks. Other transportation experts recommended focusing on proven strategies like vehicle speed reduction, which is one of the most effective ways to reduce deaths, as survival rates are higher in low-speed collisions. But this, once again, shifts the responsibilities to drivers, instead of pedestrians.

The strongest opposition to new laws banning pedestrians from using their electronic devices while crossing the road revolves around government overreach and concerns about personal freedom. But I believe that people will eventually understand the value of public safety, and concerns about Big Brotherish intervention will lessen with time. Just look at the laws requiring seat-belt use or restricting smoking initially met resistance but are now widely accepted. The pending Toronto legislation is practical, good common sense and will save lives – it should be approved when it comes up for debate next spring.

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Millennials and Boomers Should Complement One Another

Team Of Business People Working Together On A Laptop

There has recently been a lot of interest in how millennials and boomers can better get along with one another. In fact, rather than working alongside one another, the two demographic groups are often known to blame the other for their dissatisfaction with life. Boomers often complain about the millennials’ lack of loyalty and work ethics; while the millennials usually perceive the older group as dinosaurs whose reluctance to retire accounts for the high percentage of youth unemployment.

As a recent Globe and Mail article commented, young people are regularly maligned for being self absorbed and entitled; not willing to “pay their dues;” and impatient to get the promotions and compensation they feel they deserve. Consequently, the widely held sentiment is that they cannot be counted on to stay in one company for long, nor ever be loyal to the company. However, boomers’ definition of loyalty may, perhaps, need to be redefined. Take me, for an example – I’ve worked with only two firms in my professional consultancy career: one for 12 years and the other for close to 18 years. The first one is a global leader in my field and offered me a one-year training program in New York City when I first started out in my career. Thereafter, it had been a vertical trajectory in my career path within that organization in Asia and North America. The second organization, from which I retired, is a national pioneer and leader in Canada. I was made a partner in its largest office in Toronto – the first woman and the first visible minority – after three years with the firm. There were lots of temptations during my 18-year tenure there to move elsewhere or to start my own business. But, the firm always gave me opportunities to grow and learn, and to take up new challenges just at the time when I might feel bored and itchy to move. So when I was working there, loyalty meant a “lifer” with the company.

But the millennials’ frame of reference is very different – they think of being tied to an organization in terms of months, not years. Career employees are no longer dreaming of the day they retire with gold watches at the age of 65 or even younger. Today’s millennial employees are probably thinking of themselves more as free agents. They get bored easily and are always looking for variety and exciting opportunities. They do not want to be stuck with only one-track responsibilities. They want plenty of opportunities to learn and have fun at the same time. While boomers are, very often, workaholics, millennials want more work-life balance instead. Employers need to showcase a work-hard, play-hard environment, and flexibility is key. Even then, you can’t expect your employees to be with you forever because most of them won’t. If you do all the right things to motivate your millennial employees, you might get them for at best three years.

A major TV news outlet recently contacted me to gauge my interest in joining a millennial-boomer duo panel on a weekly basis to discuss topics such as the purchase of a home in your 30s or when is the right age to get married. The TV program is still work in progress, but I think the media outlet understands that this would generate interest among both demographics. Points of view will, of course, differ between the two generations and, at times, there might even be a showdown.

The best approach, however, is to create opportunities for boomers and millennials to work harmoniously with and learn from one another. The Hollywood movie, The Intern, featuring Robert De Niro as the intern and Anne Hathaway as the millennial boss, has now become reality. According to The New York Times, a few enlightened U.S. companies have already paired older executives with junior workers so that the latter could mentor the former. Millennial mentors, as many companies call them, are being pulled into formal corporate programs to give advice to the top ranks of their companies. Some executives want the views of young people on catering to new markets and developing new products; while others are simply looking for glorified tech support – Snapchat 101, Twitter tutorials and emoji lessons.

Renowned companies such as Mastercard, Cisco Systems and Mars Inc. have experimented with these mentoring programs. The same New York Times article reported that the chief executive of insurer Lloyd’s of London has said that her 19-year-old junior mentor has a totally different perspective and leaves her inspired. Even Gen-Xer managers are catching on. David Watson, 38, a managing director at Deutsche Bank, who has been mentored by a 29-year-old engineer in the Wall Street bank’s global markets technology division, said that he’s been given good tips for retaining young employees, like giving them more flexible work-from-home arrangements, and with helping him spot trends in the financial tech industry.

Reverse mentoring – younger people training older workers – is apparently not a brand new concept. In the 1990s, Jack Welch, the then chief executive of General Electric, required 500 of his top managers to pair up with junior workers to learn how to use the internet.  Boomer executives are now obsessed with better understanding millennials. It was reported that millennial consultants now advise companies like Oracle, Estee Lauder and HBO, charging as much as U.S.$20,000 per hour to give executives advice on marketing their products to young people. Overall, American organizations spent about U.S.$80 million on “generational consulting” last year, according to Source Global Research, a firm that studies the consulting industry.

Rather than hiring outside young consultants, many companies prefer to use the young people already on the payroll. Instead of a top-down management hierarchy, mature senior executives find sitting down with someone who’s on the org chart six levels down an educational experience. The traditional mentoring benefit remains in place so that millennials continue to learn from more experienced corporate leaders. But mentoring in both directions helps improve relationships and encourage collaboration within the organization. Instead of a showdown or a blame game, millennials and boomers can definitely co-exist in the workplace in harmony.

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Fashion Industry Embraces Mature Women

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About two-and-a-half years ago, I have posted an article on this blog lauding two luxury brands featuring older models – Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent and Joan Didion for Celine. The excitement about the then 71-year-old Mitchell and 80-year-old Didion emerging as the newest fashion faces generated a lot of buzz and attention in the media. I questioned at that time whether it was really a marketing campaign acknowledging diversification or just a promotional gimmick. It looks like the fashion and beauty industries are really waking up and embracing mature women and models.

Nobody made bigger news recently than iconic actresses Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren making their debut appearances on the fashion runway for LOreal during the Paris Fashion Week this year. The 79-year-old Fonda and 72-year-old Mirren have been trailblazers all their lives, and now they are brand ambassadors for a leading beauty and cosmetics brand. Fonda has always been comfortable in her own skin in spite of her age. In 2016, she told the Daily Mail that after she turned 60, she began to understand who she was and she became young again. She said she is feeling pretty good about life now that she is in sight of her 80th birthday. She repeated the same observations in a recent TV interview with Megyn Kelly on NBC.

These septuagenarian brand ambassadors are not the only ones walking the runway with the hottest young models such as Gigi Hadid. Last month,it was announced that Maye Musk, 69, was the new face of CoverGirl, making her one of the oldest ambassadors for the brand. Having been modelling since she was 15, Musk is, of course, no stranger to the world of beauty and fashion. What is noticeable is her continued success, as she ages, as a brand ambassador in an industry which has traditionally been perceived as skin-deep superficial. In an interview with Vogue last year, Musk said: I hope my success gives other women hope that they can look good and feel good when they are past 60. I was on a shoot yesterday, and the young models were so excited to see me because they say it gives them hope, too, that they can carry on.

The accomplishments of Musk are, of course, beyond the fashion runway and photo shoots. She is the mother of three successful adult children including Elon Musk, Founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. This Regina-born grandmother, with 10 grandkids and also a successful business as a dietitian, perfectly exemplifies brains and timeless beauty.

The list of mature models does not stop here. Versace also featured former supermodels of the 1990s – Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer and Carla Bruni – in its latest runway show. These mature women walked the runway alongside the new guard, including the daughter of Crawford, Kaia Gerber, and the current reigning supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid.

Even Zara, the Spanish fast-fashion brand popular among young women around the world, is using three veteran models over 40 to showcase its new Timeless Fall and Winter Collection. In marketing campaign materials and on its website, the three beautiful women – Malgosia Bela (40), Yasmin Warsame (41) and Kristina de Connick (53) – discuss the effect of aging on their personal style. The ladies have collectively walked for Dior, Valentino, Givenchy and Dries van Noten.

Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, and Loewe have also followed suit in recent years, hiring older Hollywood stars, such as Vanessa Redgrave, Sophia Loren and Charlotte Rampling, as brand ambassadors. Age diversity seems to be increasingly in vogue now on fashion runways for the past few seasons: Amber Valleta walked the runway for Tom Ford; Stella Tennant for Ralph Lauren; and Carolyn Murphy for Michael Kors.

Perhaps everything old is really new again! As I have said before on this blog, the fashion and beauty industries are finally realizing that the consumers buying their products are no longer just spring chickens, but mature women with more disposable income. Let us hope that this awakening to the aging reality is not simply a fad and mature women and men will no longer become invisible as they age.


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Distracted Driving Needs To Be Stopped



About this time last year, my blog post titled, It Is Time To Criminalize Distracted Driving, advocated that more severe legislation should be introduced to punish distracted drivers who text or talk on the cell phone and take their eyes off the road. Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau has said last September that distracted driving is a big problem and promised to raise the issue with his provincial counterparts.

Yesterday, the Transportation Minister of Ontario, Steven Del Duca, announced at a news conference that the Ontario government will bring in higher fines for distracted drivers and drivers who do not yield to pedestrians. It will also introduce a new offence of careless driving causing bodily harm, with penalties that would include a licence suspension of up to five years, a fine of up to $50,000 and even jail time of as much as two years. This is very good news because even though it may still not be severe enough to a lot of people who have lost their loved ones in accidents involving distracted drivers, at least, it will send a loud message to motorists about the need to be alert at all times when they are in charge behind the wheel.

Other changes in the Ontario government proposal included drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians will face a maximum $1,000 fine and four demerit points. Distracted drivers will face a licence suspension of three days – a first in Canada – and a maximum fine of $1,000 and escalating penalties for further offences. Minister Del Duca said the plan will reach the legislature for approval some time in the fall.

Upon approval, the new Ontario law against distracted driving would be one of the strictest in the entire country. With the exception of Nunavut, every province and territory in Canada has legislation against using a cell phone while driving. Penalties range from three to five demerit points and fines from $100 to $1,000, depending on the province or the territory.

However, according to CTV News, a majority of Canadians believe that technology is the best way to stop drivers from being distracted by the phones in a new poll conducted by insurance company Aviva Canada. The poll found that 78 percent of Canadians believe only technology that stops people from texting and using other phone functions while driving will make our roads safer, not police crackdowns or peer pressure. Such technology would look like the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature on the newest Apple mobile device operating system iOS 11.

Today, more people die on Canadian roads from distracted driving than impaired driving. According to the RCMP, four out of five collisions occur when a driver has their eyes off the road for just three seconds. According to a Globe and Mail report by Oliver Moore, over the past five years, more than 450 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed in motor vehicle collisions in five most populous cities of Ontario and on roads patrolled by the Ontario Provincial Police. Last year, Moore calculated that the number of pedestrians killed in Toronto from 2011 to 2016 was greater than the number of fatal shootings. The Ontario Transportation Ministry says in its news release that on average, one person is killed on the roads of Ontario every 17 hours. In 2014, pedestrians and cyclists made up approximately 25 percent of road fatalities in the province. Many of these deaths are, of course, avoidable.

Kudos to the Ontario government for taking prompt action, but I still believe that the province needs to adopt the textalizer tests as proposed by the New York State legislature to have police digitally scan the phone of distracted drivers to see whether they were texting or posting on Facebook while driving. Most of the victims run down by motorists were older pedestrians or cyclists. As a society, we need to protect the most vulnerable by introducing more severe laws such as permanently suspending  the licences of distracted drivers and longer jail terms. But the recent proposed legislation by the Ontario Transport Minister is a solid first step to change the attitudes of drivers.

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