In the latter part of this decade, we’ve seen major players brought to their knees by allegations of sexual misconduct—a reckoning that seemed almost inconceivable before 2017. The post-Weinstein era has given new voice to issues of harassment and gender discrimination, and this year was no different. WeWork CEO Adam Newmann stepped down amidst financial troubles and a spate of lawsuits alleging gender discrimination and harassment. Even pregnancy discrimination—behavior that is often underreported or dismissed—broke through the news cycle.
While many of our stories this year touched on those issues, we also covered myriad other Work Life-related topics, from the evolution of company culture to new and actually effective productivity hacks. Before we head into the next decade, take a look at some of our favorite things we published this year.
In June, five female anchors brought a lawsuit against local news channel NY1 alleging age and gender discrimination. Amongst those anchors was Roma Torre, who had been at the channel since its inception in 1992. The women claimed the company’s leadership had cut back on their airtime and failed to respond adequately to their concerns, all the while favoring younger talent and male anchors like Pat Kiernan. “By taking legal action, some might view us as ‘litigious’ or ‘complainers,’ but we hoped to force a dialogue about the way older women on TV are too often viewed as expendable, while men age with ‘gravitas,'” Torre wrote exclusively for Fast Company.
In recent years, astrology has taken over the internet, from Instagram meme accounts to horoscopes published by mainstream media outlets. It was only a matter of time before astrology found its way into workplaces, by way of private Slack rooms and office tarot readings. Some people believe it’s a more comprehensive, less judgmental alternative to the personality assessments already used in the workplace: Astrologer Aliza Kelly, for example, sees the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as “corporate astrology.”
A recent Verge investigation into cult luggage brand Away revealed that while its breezy ads may have inspired wanderlust in customers, its employees were certainly not taking very many vacations. Employees reported working around the clock, including late nights and weekends, and doing so with limited time off—the embodiment of hustle culture. Most of the allegations involved cofounder Steph Korey, who stepped down as CEO days after the story was published. But, as contributor Jason Shen writes, Away’s culture reflects a bigger problem in tech, driven by single-minded founders and investors alike.
In 2019, white women reportedly make about $0.79 for every dollar men earned. Black and Latinx women earn even less—$0.62 and $0.54, respectively. In a package timed to Equal Pay Day, we explored the persistent issue of pay inequality through personal stories from women across industries and career stages. One woman in her late 50s said she had to delay retirement because of the wages she had lost over years of being underpaid; another woman found it so difficult to re-enter the workforce after leaving to have a child that she started her own company.
When Fast Company‘s Anisa Purbasari Horton tallied up her monthly spending on personal grooming, she discovered that she spent 15 times what her husband did. But she found that personal finance advice often neglected to account for those expenses, despite the pressures on professional women to look and dress the part.
Earlier this year, Chelsey Glasson outlined allegations of pregnancy discrimination and retaliatory behavior in an anonymous memo that disclosed she wouldn’t be returning to Google after maternity leave. Glasson has since filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—usually the first step toward potentially bringing a lawsuit. Glasson shared her first-person account exclusively with Fast Company to help shine a spotlight on the bias and discrimination experienced by pregnant women in all sorts of workplaces.
In another editorial package, we took a closer look at internships, which are invaluable in many industries but can also exploit young workers hungry for experience. An internship can be the best way—sometimes the only way—to break into an industry, as was the case for Fast Company’s Liz Segran. But unpaid internships, for example, inherently favor affluent students who can afford to work for free, and interns are not fully protected under employment law, which leaves them even more vulnerable to workplace misconduct than regular employees.
The headline says it all. Ellevest cofounder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck denounces a piece of advice dispensed by some personal finance experts, who argue that many Americans could significantly pad their bank accounts if they were willing to part with their daily coffee habit. To Krawcheck, this sort of advice is often targeted at women and distracts from systemic financial inequity. “Women have effectively internalized the messages that our society sends them about money, and the result is that the primary emotion so many of us feel about money is shame,” she writes.