Back in October 2017, Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey, two NY Times reporters, and Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker exposed the Harvey Weinstein story which led to the creation of #MeToo. What started with a media campaign to expose the magnitude of the problem turned out to be history’s most successful social media movement, then a topic which occupied the minds of world leaders. And as industry by industry got contaminated by the emergence of terrible stories, workplace harassment has become a serious problem for Corporate America (and for organizations everywhere).
The response to this crisis by business leadership was self-involved to an incredible degree. It was all about “zero tolerance” messaging toward harassment and “more women in leadership roles”. Don’t get me wrong here: zero tolerance messaging and diversity at the top are of course crucial factors in the effort to render the workplace harassment-free. But what’s mind boggling, is how marginal was the thinking about the employees themselves, and what really needs to change in order for them come forward and expose wrongdoings.
A new way of thinking about harassment reporting.
We started Vault with three premises: Firstly, that the majority of people who are subject to harassment will not report it to their employer. Something about the DNA of internal corporate reporting systems just doesn’t cut it for people, and that would not change until we hand them real tools which can help to overcome issues of low trust levels and fear.
Secondly, in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the fact that employees don’t report harassment to their employer doesn’t mean that they remain silent. Instead, they create and pass on ‘watch-out’ spreadsheets between themselves (as the female employees of Nike did recently), they bring down companies to their knees with explosive blogs (as Susan Fowler did to Uber), or they go out to the media and social media with their stories.
Thirdly, that in these times, companies cannot afford not to know. It’s just too expensive. Employers are starting to view harassment same way as other corporate risks, and by keeping reporting levels low, the risk to organizations actually gets higher.
Enters Vault, the world’s first Blockchain powered counter-harassment platform. It’s a platform which allows employees to record and report misconduct, discrimination and sexual harassment as never before.
In addition to providing a safe digital space where people can privately store details and evidence of harassment incidents, Vault also introduces unique reporting enablers: our enablers empower employees to report their experiences by allowing them to know if they are part of a wider pattern of abuse by the same harasser. That’s important, given that majority of bullies and harassers are repeat offenders and they impact many people.
Alternatively, Vault users can come forward collectively with other users to report the same harasser, while still safeguarding their own and others’ identity and personal story from each other (but not from HR). Our platform then provides a safe channel to HR (or other nominated authority within the organization) for those users who choose to report.
Importantly, Vault Platform is not an anonymous reporting system, but one that allows harassed employees to come forward and report in confidence, with their identity, evidence and personal memos attached (to allow a meaningful investigation and due process). The trigger for coming forward is the strength people take in numbers, knowing they’re not alone in this.
Vault allows users to report collectively, without revealing the identities and personal stories of group members to each other.
Blockchain is central to our approach.
Blockchain plays an important role in Vault. Permissioned and private Blockchain deployments within big organizations,(or through a ‘Federation’ of smaller businesses coming together) means that businesses can bring this reporting solution in-house, instead of relying on third parties or exposing sensitive information to external service providers. It means that there’s no need to outsource the handling of harassment reporting, as the British Parliament is intending to do. And since it’s underpinned by Blockchain, Vault maintains employees’ trust at all times: information is distributed, safe, immutable, tamper-proof, and no one (including the employer) can access it, until the user decides to come forward and report. Smart Contracts mean that a users’ individual or collective reporting decisions can self-execute without any intermediary involvement. Companies may choose to nominate a trusted external party to host an encrypted node to secure the ledger externally. Companies may also come together to share the network, adding another layer of security by holding copies (nodes) of encrypted information, safeguarding its longevity.
The impact on individuals is clear. The ability to safely record and eventually choose if they so wish to report workplace harassment means more employees will take meaningful action to resolve their difficult situations. More people, and importantly more women, will stay in their jobs instead of quitting over harassment. Want to create diverse workplaces? let’s actually keep women in (and ethnic minorities, and everyone else who’s prone to discrimination).
Organizations, at the same time, would reinstate trust in them as employers and their reporting channels, and become truly resilient to the future risks of an uncovered and untreated harassment culture. Productivity and corporate reputation will flourish while workplace harassment is flagged at first instance and then shrinks altogether. We at Vault work with visionaries who understand the power of disruptive technology to disrupt harassment itself.
We are changing the work culture. For good.
Neta Meidav is co-founder and CEO of Vault Platform, the trusttech company disrupting workplace misconduct reporting and resolution. Neta worked as a senior adviser to the UK Government for over ten years and is a knowledgeable resource on solutions to the problem of harassment and bullying in the workplace.