Mary Koss has been on a 40-year quest for justice – “to understand why women are hurt and how we can stop it.” As a young professor, with a PhD in clinical psychology, Koss was asked by a more senior male colleague to join him on a study that proposed “to have women that he employed sit and wear different sizes of padded bras, while they interacted with male college students.” What that colleague proposed to do afterwards, which you’ll hear at the beginning of this episode, would have made some women run in the other direction. Not Mary Koss. Koss has never run from controversy. That helps explain why, during her own personal battle against sexual harassment, which she shares in this episode, she was willing to withstand “an entire year when no one spoke to me.” And it helps explain why this University of Arizona Professor is pursuing a mission to spread an approach to justice that, instead of fighting in the criminal court system, has victim and perpetrator come to an understanding about the wrong that has occurred and the appropriate consequences.
Professor Louise Fitzgerald is a pioneer in sexual harassment research. At this moment, when women who have broken their silence have led to the downfall of so many prominent men, I speak with Fitzgerald about how to assess the continuum of acts – ranging from bad to horrific – that have made the headlines. She also shares stories of harassment happening under the radar, including the extreme vulnerability of women in low-income housing to predatory landlords, and a case she is working on in which every new woman hired to work in a particular factory was greeted by chants of “fresh meat.” And, as usual on Wavemaker Conversations, we’ll hear our guest’s personal journey to success – which, for Fitzgerald, meant transforming from a college dropout with a 1.2 GPA to a university professor with a PhD. This is the first in a series of reports from the front lines of sexual harassment and assault – stories that don’t make the headlines.