Roberta Matuson
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Roberta's Recent Publications

The Magnetic Leader

Employees don’t work for companies; they work for people. The more irresistible you are as a leader, the more pull you have for employees to want to stay and for your customers to remain loyal. Read Excerpt

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Roberta's Recent Publications

Talent Magnetism

Your company is only as good as the talent you keep. Learn the new rules for attracting top talent and getting them to stick around. Excerpt

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Roberta's Recent Publications

Suddenly in Charge

Honored by the Washington Post as a Top 5 Business Book for Leaders.

Learn how to manage up, down, and succeed all around... Excerpt

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Roberta's Recent Publications

Suddenly in Charge

Learn how to save your company millions by improving the quality of your hires, while improving productivity. Slash costly employee turnover.

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Roberta in the News

Sexual Harassment Still Dark Cloud in Workplace - Boston Globe, October 31, 2004

Sexual harassment still dark cloud in workplace

By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff, 10/31/04

When Fox News associate producer Andrea Mackris accused commentator Bill O'Reilly of making lewd and threatening remarks, she reignited an issue that continues to plague men and women alike: sexual harassment on the job.

Mackris, 33 and an employee at ''The O'Reilly Factor,'' alleged in a lawsuit that during several telephone conversations in August, O'Reilly described his sexual fantasies and conquests and suggested she buy a sex toy. She said the harassment began in 2002 when she worked on his show, and it resumed after she returned to Fox following a stint at CNN. Mackris also said she came back to Fox because O'Reilly promised her a $10,000 raise and verbally agreed to stop the lewd remarks.

In a lawsuit filed hours before Mackris' complaint, O'Reilly, 55, maintained Mackris and her lawyer tried to extort $60 million in hush money from him. What's more, he said, she'd never mentioned being harassed before.

The two agreed to settle the lawsuit last week, with all details remaining confidential.

On-the-job sexual harassment is as problematic today as it was in 1991 when Anita Hill alleged before a congressional panel that she had been harassed by her former boss, Clarence Thomas, then a US Supreme Court nominee, workplace specialists say.

''Sexual harassment is not going away at all,'' said Evelyn Murphy, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and a resident scholar at Brandeis University. ''After Anita Hill's testimony, the number of complaints rose dramatically, and they have stayed at a high level. It is an ugly story. It takes a horrific financial toll on women because, almost always, they are forced to leave their jobs.''

In fiscal 2003, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission got 13,566 sexual harassment complaints, up from 10,532 in 1992, a year after Hill came forward. In addition, monetary awards associated with settling the claims rose to $50 million last year, up from $12.7 million 12 years ago. And although women continue to lodge more complaints than men, the agency says complaints filed by men represented 14.7 percent of the charges filed last fiscal year, up from 9.1 percent in 1992.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, a principal at Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, says she discussed sexual harassment at work when she appeared on ''The O'Reilly Factor'' in 2002.

''I spoke to Bill O'Reilly about sex in the office and mentioned that it could create a hostile environment,'' said Matuson. ''He made light of the subject, but that is his style.'' As part of the show preparation, Mackris asked Matuson questions about office sex and harassment. She now wonders what was going through Mackris' mind during that conversation.

Matuson believes many women -- and some men -- are battling the problem at work, but, like Mackris, are reluctant to speak up.

Deborah Kolb, a professor at the Simmons Graduate School of Management who studies workplace interaction, calls sexual harassment a form of ''gender testing,'' which occurs when an individual is denigrated and their work scrutinized because of their gender. This type of abuse often occurs when women take jobs usually held by males. An expert on negotiation in the workplace, Kolb is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming Women in Leadership Summit in Cambridge sponsored by Linkage Inc., an international leadership development firm in Burlington.

Kolb said Mackris, who sought a pay raise before the legal battles began, should have negotiated the higher salary and secured an agreement on paper before she left CNN. Kolb also believes Mackris should have brought up concerns about O'Reilly with other superiors at Fox before she returned and negotiated a binding agreement that indicated that he would stop harassing her.

''I would not have come back without negotiating something on how they would interact,'' said Kolb, author of the book, ''Her Place at the Table: A Woman's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success.''

Murphy, who is working on a book about how gender bias and harassment cost women money and contributes to the wage gap between males and females, believes most women confront sexual harassment at some point in their careers.

Last year, for example, Dial Corp. agreed to pay $10 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of 100 female workers at an Illinois plant. The women alleged they were threatened and stalked by their male colleagues, and were the targets of lewd remarks and unwanted physical attacks. Pornography was also prevalent in the workplace, they said. The company, which is based in Arizona, denied the accusations.

Under federal law, sexual harassment is regarded as a form of gender bias, with guaranteed protection from such behavior under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Increasingly aware of the negative repercussions it can have on business, many US firms offer sexual harassment training. Locally, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has issued guidelines to help employers understand the state's antidiscrimination law. The guidelines also explain how sexual harassment allegations should be investigated.

Boston lawyer Liz Rodgers, a partner at Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz, said young women are often the focus of unwanted conduct because they seem vulnerable or gullible. Single women with families are targets, too, because they cannot afford to lose the job. So are immigrant women who fear deportation.

Even high ranking women in finance, law, or academia can recount sexual roadblocks they've encountered along the way, said Matuson.

Kolb recalled meeting with male clients at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in rural Texas several years ago when the men started making sexual overtures. Kolb, who was in sales at the time, left.

Joanna Lau, president of Lau Technologies in Concord, a defense firm that makes electronics for the military, was harassed in her first week at a New York software consulting firm where she started her engineering career.

''It was my first job,'' said Lau. ''The owner invited me to a big event, a banquet and trade show. Then, he asked me to come in on the weekend to learn more. I was willing to work the extra hours. I felt he wanted to invest in me -- until he put his hands on me.''

The next day Lau submitted a letter of resignation. ''When he put his arms around me, that scared me,'' she said. ''After something like that you are more sensitized, and more alert.''

Rodgers was working on a health research project in Manhattan in 1972 when her boss singled her out for work on a special project. Then, he suggested that they work at her loft. ''He was married and he had never made an advance before,'' she said. ''So, I thought he just wanted a nice quiet spot. We got to the loft and ... it became clear that all he wanted to see was the bed. I said, 'Oh, gee, we have to get back to the office. I'm expecting a call from my boyfriend in Boston.'''

Today, Rodgers tells students they should ''literally put up your hand palm forward and, with a serious expression, say, 'Look, you and I both know this cannot happen.''' She said the statement and hand gesture shows the harasser that the worker will not tolerate inappropriate behavior.

Diane E. Lewis can be reached at dlewis@globe.com.


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"Roberta presented an engaging and informative webinar on “Managing Up in a Top Down World” for Northeastern University’s alumni. This thought provoking session provided practical strategies for navigating office politics and building effective relationships for career advancement. Roberta’s extensive expertise and knowledge of workplace trends was apparent as she skillfully answered a wide range of questions from participants. Her well-organized presentation made it easy for the audience to commit to implementing her advice."
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