Why we think LinkedIn could be safer for women
Social media is renounced as a fickle friend, but given that it is meant to be for professionals, LinkedIn could be safer for women.
You have all heard tales of women receiving creepy overtures from men on social media. But it even happens on LinkedIn, and that is surprising. It is the so-called go-to professional network, so why don’t people behave professionally? A number of women have been discouraged from putting their information on an online platform for fear of situations that are not professional. So often women feel uncomfortable about engaging. It’s clear that LinkedIn could be safer for women to help overcome these barriers. Could that be why women’s use of LinkedIn is lower than their male counterparts?
The problem is real
Alissa, a Tax Analyst said; “Since I have been on LinkedIn I have probably had about 50 inappropriate messages. It has put me off using it. You would have thought that after #MeToo, men would have realised that this sort of behaviour is not OK.” Despite a general level of awareness, online harassment and misconduct is still as wide spread as it ever was.
Dorothy Dalton, CEO 3Plus International told me; “I posted a suggestion on LinkedIn that there should be more options to cover different types of incivility. Truthfully most didn’t think it was worth it. I still believe that LinkedIn could be safer for women to allay their fears. I don’t think profiles should be approved without a full name and a profile photo. The possibility to be tracked may serve as a deterrent. In the reporting options there should be more options including inappropriate or uncivil behaviour.”
I wonder if those who are already on LinkedIn and engaging, are the wrong target demographic to ask for input which is pretty much asking the choir. An enquiry on Facebook suggests that women preferred participating on that platform because they were mainly with their friends, and felt more comfortable.
In 2016 one of our Millennial writers posted: “the network is crawling with creeps looking for a mail order relationship or a cheap thrill. It’s free so I understand why its an attractive and easy option. It’s also poorly controlled. Two years later she added “It does seem to be a bit better – but that might be because I brutally purged my connections, including my now ex- boss.”
LinkedIn is the top professional online platform. Find out How to make the most of LinkedIn for career and business success HERE and feel secure .
The gender gap in the impact of online harassment
Research from Pew on “Online Harassment 2017,” suggests that 41% of Americans have been subjected to online harassment. This can range from physical threats, to stalking, harassment over a sustained period, or sexual harassment. If you are a target it can be very distressing. However, women are more inclined to see online harassment differently to men. The clear reason for that is that they are more vulnerable.
The emotional impact of online harassment tends to be felt more acutely among women. For example, 35% of women who have experienced any form of online harassment say they found their most recent incident to be “extremely” or “very” upsetting. This is more than twice the share among men who have been targeted online (16%). (A similar split occurred in Pew Research Center’s 2014 survey on the topic. At that time, 38% of women and 17% of men who had been targeted online felt this level of distress because of their harassment.)
There are also gender differences in views of online harassment as a public issue. 70% of women say they see online harassment as a major problem, compared with 54% of men. Younger women (18 to 29) – are especially likely to say this: More than 83% say it is a major problem, compared with 55% of men in the same age group.
Women view online harassment as a problem more than men, because it is. Personal security is not something that men take into consideration in their daily lives. Risk assessment and safety is part of the everyday life of both women and even young girls. 63% of women say that it’s important to feel welcome and safe online. In an era when psychological safety is the new corporate buzz word, LinkedIn needs to take that onboard.
The current procedures aren’t enough
Earlier this year one Dubai based LinkedIn user Dawn Metcalfe, author of HardTalk, received a picture of a man’s genitals which she opened in a public place, blissfully unaware of the content awaiting her. The response via the usual LinkedIn reporting channels she believes was woefully inadequate with a failure to follow through.The first reaction was to suggest that the man’s account had been hacked rather than run a thorough investigation. She pursued the matter directly with network contacts in the LinkedIn hierarchy which did not produce an immediate or appropriate response.
The profile was fake and was eventually taken down, but not because it was investigated. Metcalfe carried out her own research and found that the man did not work at the company he claimed was his current employer. Still annoyed months later she adds “like many women reporting inappropriate sexual conduct I wasn’t taken or treated seriously. It’s just wrong.”
Another woman in Jacksonville, Florida got tired of silly or inappropriate messages in her InMail. “It just became too much to deal with, so I disengaged. As an entrepreneur I feel sure this is not the best thing for my business. If LinkedIn could do more to make the site more secure then I would re-consider it.”
More clarity needed
LinkedIn claims to have appropriate procedures to report and block miscreants, and their official line is that it is unacceptable. But we are still unclear how many red flags need to go up before there is a final strike out. In the meantime, although the offenders may no longer be able to harass one woman, they can still go on to behave inappropriately with other women on the site.
Their solutions do little to offset the discomfort caused by inappropriate behaviour, which some women feel is still rife on the platform. The Cyberbullying Research Center sees this as a valid point; “ … We can make more meaningful progress in terms of responding to the needs of users when we put ourselves in their proverbial shoes, and try to understand the psychological and emotional harm they might be experiencing.”
Cyber bullying or poor behaviour is so engrained in social media language that a whole dictionary of terms has sprung up around their use. There is no doubt that women are targeted and receive higher levels of abuse than men. The whole point of #MeToo was to stop women having to suffer in silence. So do let us know if you think you would engage more on LinkedIn if you felt more comfortable.