And, of course, the harder it is for women to work in an administration, the harder it is for women’s perspectives to be represented in it. This is why, irrespective of the latest allegations against Cuomo, it has long been clear that he is no friend to women and has no place in office.
But Cuomo is far from the only leader who is guilty of creating a workplace culture that is unwelcoming to women. Business and political leaders should be examining whether they are responsible for inculcating environments that exclude women — and we as voters, consumers and shareholders need to stop tolerating these qualities in our leaders.
Take former President Barack Obama (I served as a Treasury spokesperson in his administration). Obama has a reputation for being a friend to women and there has never been a whiff of sexual scandal surrounding him. But he learned that the tendency for other men on his senior staff to shout, curse, interrupt and take credit for other people’s ideas during policy discussions left senior women in his White House “feeling diminished, ignored, and increasingly reluctant to voice their opinions,” he wrote in his 2020 autobiography “A Promised Land.”
He responded by taking responsibility. Obama wrote that hearing this “forced me to look in the mirror and ask myself how much my own inclination toward machismo — my tolerance for a certain towel-snapping atmosphere in meetings, the enjoyment I took in a good verbal jousting — may have contributed to their discomfort.”
Obama deserves enormous credit for being receptive to feedback and examining the subconscious, unintended ways in which he was contributing to a workplace that was difficult for women. It’s long past time for other leaders to follow his example. And if all of us stopped voting for bullies and purchasing products from companies that don’t foster inclusive workplaces, the world would be a far friendlier place for women.
It is not news that Gov. Cuomo is a bully. While there is no excuse for his behavior, New Yorkers also bear some responsibility for repeatedly choosing to elevate him to power. Now, it’s time for all of us to reevaluate the values we want our leaders to embody and withdraw support for the kinds of men who — intentionally or unintentionally — hold women back.