Monday, September 16, 2013

4 Ways to End Sexual Harassment So Simple Your Intelligence Will Be Insulted

Act #259: Change work cultures.

The Kentucky State Legislature is very, very busy these days.  But they are not busy researching, creating, or reviewing laws to better the bluegrass state.  They are instead tied up investigating allegations of sexual harassment by a state representative charged with subjecting at least three legislative staff members to unwelcome sexual advances over a period of three years.  One reported incident involved the representative pulling on a female staff member's red, lacy underwear as she walked up the capital steps.  House leadership began a 5-member investigative committee and the Legislative Research Commission is in the midst of a full-blown investigation into the formal allegations.  The Legislative Ethics Commission will consider bringing in an expert on sexual harassment to train Kentucky lawmakers on behavior that crosses the line to impropriety.  

Obviously, I'm thrilled that the boys are finally taking this seriously, but I sit here in awe of the amount of time, energy, and resources, being poured into this process.  Although he resigned this week, the representative in question still faces a slew of legal consequences.  The legislature and the employees that staff them will be spending the remainder of the year focused on this.  I'm certain that the entire legislature will be undergoing comprehensive sexual harassment training in the upcoming year, but I question whether or not a mere workshop or two will effectively address deep-rooted systemic issues of sexism in a powerful, male-dominated work culture that supports such harassment in the first place.  True, it's important for people to learn acceptable workplace behavior, but until work cultures and structures are truly transformed, I have no doubt that women and other underrepresented minorities will continue to face workplace discrimination and harassment. I offer 4 really, really easy ways to end sexual harassment in your workplace.  You already know this, so do forgive me if I'm insulting your intelligence.

Hire and promote more women.
If you are in a position to hire or promote people, seek to do so with highly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds in order to equalize power dynamics, and create a more robust and culturally competent work environment.  Reportedly, there were two other legislators present when the representative pulled on the female staff's underwear.  I guarantee you that if those legislators were women, 1.) It wouldn't have happened in the first place; or 2.) Someone would be in big, big trouble immediately.  If the initial complaint had been heard by a woman in power, I wonder if it would have been permitted to drag on without resolution for so long.

Do more than speak up.
Apparently some of the "inappropriate" behaviors of the questionable representative were observed by fellow legislators.  In this instance, the obligatory, "Dude, that's not cool", simply isn't enough.  Show compassion to anyone who is being harassed, support them in seeking assistance to stop the harassment.  If you are in a management position, enact a zero tolerance policy for any behaviors that subject employees to harassment.

While at work, work.
Simple enough, right?  Spend your 8 hours focused on what you're paid to do.  Expect no less from others.  If someone has time for shoulder rubs and calling out female articles of clothing, they probably aren't doing so stellar in their jobs.  Hold them accountable.

Women = Men.
Period.  Actually, if you practice this one, you can go ahead and ignore the first two.  They'd be irrelevant. 

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