Culture of Harassment in Ford Revealed

As the movement against sexual harassment reaches the automotive world, Automologist LING follows the development with distress and…hope. 

2017 has seen a shift in attitude towards sexual harassment, especially in the USA. The movement was triggered by the Harvey Weinstein exposé, and I am a little sad at how very little surprised I am when story after story of sexual harassment have come out since, not just from Hollywood. I was even less surprised when the automotive industry, traditionally the dominion of men, became embroiled in it.

In a damning article by The New York Times published in December, women who work or have worked in two of Ford’s Chicago plants claimed they were routinely catcalled and groped, offered better jobs in exchange for sexual favours, and faced retaliation when complaining about such treatment. According to the article, Ford “did not act aggressively or consistently enough to root out the problem”, allowing alleged aggressors to linger on in their jobs and women who filed complaints were left to deal with repercussions.

Image credit.

On the same day that the article came out, Ford released this video with two representatives of their top leaders in the USA, reinforcing their commitment to weeding out sexual harassment and promising no retaliation towards women who report sexual harassment:

Whilst I am in no position to judge their sincerity, their teleprompter-reading-like delivery would not reassure me if I were one of the women working in Ford. But I did also watch it after listening to the audio of the women’s first-hand accounts of being sexually harassed, also included in The New York Times‘ article. (“I slept with him because I needed my job.” “He would come up and smack me on the bottom.”)

Following that, the CEO of Ford, Jim Hackett issued an open apology. While the apology sounds sincere enough, his words reads a little bit empty, considering that a slew of sexual and racial harassment lawsuits against Ford had started way back in the nineties, with millions being paid out in settlements.

I am now bracing myself for more news of the like, implicating other automotive companies. It is, after all, still very much a man’s world here. While I have never experienced sexual harassment per se at the workplace, it is rare for a woman nowadays to have never experienced it at some time—or times—in her life. And men have become very good at making indecent proposals, so cleverly disguised that leave the woman questioning whether it could be construed as harassment or not.

But now that the ground has shifted and sexual harassment is taken seriously—finally—I’m hopeful that a real change will come, and perhaps even any potential victimisation of women, in the automotive industry or otherwise, have already been precluded.

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