Advertising doyenne Cindy Gallop has called time on LinkedIn for not taking harassment against women serious enough, suggesting three simple ways the platform could improve.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Bauer Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.
One of advertising’s most powerful figures, and a grand campaigner for gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the industry, Cindy Gallop is currently drawing a huge amount of interest online.
The cause? Gallop has called-out LinkedIn for not taking seriously the issue of harassment from its users towards women, with a post on steps that could be taken to remove this behaviour receiving more than 1,130 reactions and at least 127 comments, at time of writing.
B&T recently spoke to Gallop from her base in New York about why this post has resonated with men and women alike, and where her three-step plan for inclusivity—which she described as the “bare minimum” LinkedIn should incorporate—could be applied.
In her opinion, and that of countless other women on the platform, LinkedIn is not as safe as it could be for women and diverse minorities, because it has not gone far enough to arrest harassment—in the forms of unwanted advances and abusive comments and messages—before it occurs.
It’s an issue, she says, which has been a problem for the professional networking platform since she joined in 2006, and one that she has raised with LinkedIn on multiple levels—be they customer support, the platform’s editorial, or its executive team—on more than one occasion.
“It doesn’t matter what the platform is—men abuse women just for daring to have opinions and for speaking up,” Gallop tells B&T.
“So what that means is that you shut down women’s voices on LinkedIn. And that’s not good when you think about the fact that LinkedIn is where employers look for evidence of incisive, intelligent posts—it’s where people look to book speakers, it’s where people look to book trainers and educators.
“And when women are not as present as men, because they are being sexually harassed or silenced, that is not good for women in the business world as a whole.
“And it’s certainly not good for a platform that purports to be about gender equality, diversity and inclusion in a professional context.”
Despite possessing an album full of abusive comments directed at her on the platform, which she says she has saved in the hope LinkedIn will eventually listen to her, and a history of expertise in creating more inclusive online spaces, none of Gallop’s recommendations have been applied on LinkedIn.
Speaking to B&T, LinkedIn says it takes a zero-tolerance approach to harassment on its platform, and directed us to a January 2020 blog post from Linkedin’s director of product management, trust and security, Madhu Gupta, on how it keeps its members safe from harassment.
“Hearing from the community is essential as we work to combat harassment, which has no place on LinkedIn,” a spokesperson for the platform tells B&T.
“We will be considering [Cindy Gallop’s] ideas among additional improvements underway.”
Like many other platforms, LinkedIn allows users to report instances of abuse.
“Our teams use a combination of technical measures, human review and reports from our members to uncover harassment and when it’s found we take immediate action,” the spokesperson says.
However, according to Gallop—who founded the inclusive sex-tech start-up MakeLoveNotPorn—the onus of dealing with abusive behaviour should not be placed on the abused through reporting.
Features should instead be designed into the platform that arrest ‘isms’ before they manifest and ensure professionalism among users, and that women’s voices are not silenced.
“My suggestion is all about stopping this [harassment towards women] before it ever happens,” Gallop tells B&T.
“These are really quick and easy tweaks to make—they [LinkedIn] could make them … in a matter of hours, and I’m going to be astonished if they don’t and if nobody even responds to my having given them.”
However, since speaking to B&T, Gallop’s post has garnered a response from LinkedIn’s vice president of product and trust, Tanya Staples, and its global head of product, Tomer Cohen, who thanked her for her feedback and for “speaking up”.
“I’m glad you were able to connect with the team. As Tanya (who leads our trust and safety product team) shared, harassment has no place on LinkedIn,” Cohen wrote.
“We’re listening carefully and working hard to make sure LinkedIn is a safe, professional, and trusted environment. I hope you’ll start seeing the improvements we are making soon.
“Thank you again for the continued feedback and engagement on the platform.”
Fellow LinkedIn users have, however, called on the platform to pay Gallop for her recommendations if it is serious about tackling the issue.
“Sadly, asking women to tell you how to not let themselves be harassed without paying them for the service they provide is another form of exploitation,” CoCreativ senior vice president of marketing Robert Green says.
“People pay Cindy a lot of money for this type of analysis—you should do the same. Stop using other people’s labour to improve your multi-billion dollar product.”
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