For as long as I can remember, my mornings started with Matt Lauer on the screen. One morning, when my boys were young, one looked at the screen and thought Matt was my husband. (They have the same haircut. We giggled for days over that one.) For years, Matt was a staple in our home bringing us news and events.
So, imagine my surprise when my husband texted me this week and said: "OMG! Matt Lauer was fired!"
To say I was disheartened is an understatement. When I watched Savannah Guthrie share the news, her emotions were raw. Real. She expressed what so many of us were likely feeling.
I receive a lot of news via e-mail and when I got to the office, I received the Variety exclusive. At first, I was appalled at the behavior in general. And, most important, in the workplace.
How could someone have a button under their desk that locked his office door?!
I'll just stop there to get to my point. It's a new day ... and today requires effort from both employers and employees, where we all act as good human beings.
Employers need to make a stand.
Sexual harassment in the workplace—or anywhere, for that matter—is simply unacceptable. I think we would all agree that it doesn't matter if this employee is the top-producing salesperson, the face of the brand or the biggest draw in media. If they are a cancer to your internal organization, it should be an easy decision: They MUST go.
Yes, your revenue may falter. Your ratings may suffer. But isn't it more important to think of the total impact on your team? Today is a new day in the professional sphere; the time for gender balance and equality is upon us. Women represent 51 percent of the workforce: Their influence, power and impact are what make companies more successful. As employers, we owe it to our teams—men and women—to provide an environment that is safe and that provides opportunity and equality.
Be brave and know you will be OK. It's definitely not easy taking that leap of faith. If nothing happens, find someone who will listen. Trust yourself; you need to speak up for the sake of your co-workers and the company's future employees. You have the power to stop this from happening to others.
Come to work every day with a good attitude, ready to work, committed to your job—and maintain a level of professionalism we all can be proud of. It's not always easy, but it's possible.
I wish I could say the breaking news is going to slow down. Unfortunately, this is probably just the start. I do want to thank the companies that are starting to take a stand. It may have taken a long time, but they are finally fostering a culture change.
As I raise my two boys, my hope is they will live in a world where sexual harassment no longer exists and they grow up to respect all people in all places—especially at work!
Written by Kasie Smith, president of Serendipity Media and publisher of West Michigan Woman magazine.