Tired of hearing about women being harassed and discriminated against at work?

Me, too.

Talk about a broken record. Since Anita Hill’s public shaming in 1991 for bringing to light now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ shop talk about Long Dong Silver and pubic hair on soda cans – as Hill’s boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of all places – the drone of complaints continues. A new poll shows that nearly a quarter of women at work experience unwanted and inappropriate sexual remarks and gestures by men who have influence over their careers. Worse is that reporting the behavior has no negative consequences for the offender. But the real kicker is that most often, women who report sexual harassment – like they are supposed to – are punished for doing so.

Conventional wisdom is that sexual harassment, like all discrimination, is about power, something women lack by society’s modern yardstick. According to Forbes Magazine, the 10 richest people in the world are men, as are the 10 most powerful CEOs. Only a small handful of the 70 or so most powerful people in the world are women, and there has never been a woman in charge of the most powerful country on earth.

If power is a zero-sum game whereby women gain power only if and when men lose it, then the fierce protection of the status quo is easier to understand. The challenge for men in power is to risk the idea that power may not be a zero-sum game. Given the chance women might make a bigger pie rather than cut smaller slices. The challenge for women is to fess up to what all the fuss is about at work.

Women want power to change the world and women want power to be free – free to express themselves and engineer their own destiny. Setting aside spiritual power and God, the only way to mortal power is through money or politics, which are synonymous these days. What women want in the workplace is to compete fairly for the best jobs. Women want a shot at doing big, exciting things in a free market of ideas and talent. The baggage of dealing with a dysfunctional co-worker on top of the even more punishing Human Resources bureaucracy (allegedly equipped to deal with complaints) is like wearing a ball and chain around your leg while running the 100-yard dash. The sheer nonsense of it takes even the most talented employee’s eye off the ball. Being sexually harassed at work is like being forced to breathe bad air. You suffocate whether you complain about it, or not.

The women who met with Harvey Weinstein and were harassed or assaulted were not there to get his autograph. They wanted a job in Hollywood, and it’s common knowledge there and everywhere else that the best jobs spring from knowing the right person in the right place at the right time. Men met with Harvey Weinstein to vie for parts and pitch movies, too, but the hurdle for women was much higher to overcome. The price was steep whether she got the job or not.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” as Virginia Woolf said in 1929 – or do much of anything else in 2017, I would add. Rampant sexual harassment is robbing women of their God-given rights to truth, justice and the pursuit of happiness, and the legal and political system continues to fail to enforce these rights – no surprise, really, given the influence of money on the system and the people with all the money. Something has to change or the same old story will continue to be the same old story.

Is it time women stood their ground at work, borrowing from the self-defense “movement,” and hit the office packing and aiming to shoot all hands that grope? Probably not, unless there are others on the payroll who will clean up the mess.

Maybe instead of having to go to HR and talk to a woman who’s pretending to care but who is paid (less) to protect the bottom line and status quo of the business, employees who have been harassed could put $5 in a jar for every incident – which then would be matched by the company’s checking account. If sexual harassment is about power and money is power, then maybe it will take money to stop it.

Sexual harassment and discrimination are about the power at work that women can’t earn, apparently. The problem persists despite the hashtags and mandatory employee training. What’s at stake is not sentimental, like an old song; it’s the ability of women to be free to find purpose in their life, to change the world and to make a bigger pie.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and a former state senator. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @dillesquire