How Planners can Participate in the #MeToo Movement

If you’re on social media, you have almost certainly come across the #metoo hashtag recently. These words have become a rallying cry to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault. It began with a tweet from Alyssa Milano, a famous entertainer, producer and activist.

Attention to this topic has been accumulating since the bevy of charges levied against mega-movie producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced. Many are shocked that this situation only recently came to light. Throughout Weinstein’s career there was an abundance of hushed, vague rumors and appalling excuses (“that’s just Harvey!”) which silenced women. Victims feared for their livelihoods, reputations, self-worth and the overwhelming probability of dismissal.

The good news is that event professionals are in an ideal position to initiate change. Here are some positive steps you can take in the office, at events and personally.

In the Office

An important first step in implementing a sexual harassment policy is defining the term. Below is an excerpt of the definition provided by EEOC.

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Establish a strict policy. Detail specifics in the policy and communicate that harassment or retaliation against a harassment claim, will not be tolerated under any circumstance. In this policy, set up a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment claims.

Continuously check in and check up. Managers are tasked with monitoring workplace dynamics. Request honest input and demonstrate open communication. If a complaint is issued, it must always be investigated.

Encourage consensual agreement forms for office romances. It may not seem necessary in the moment, but it’s a simple step to ensuring a safe environment.

Set-up training. The company policy should be reiterated at least annually. Depending on the company size and location, you may be legally obligated to provide technical training more often.

At Events

Make your event beneficial. Events can be used to raise awareness, heal (encourage victims to share), engage with the community and endorse public policies. Seek out organizations and inquire about partnerships.

Maintain a strict policy on discrimination and harassment. Make this clear before the event so even if someone isn’t involved in an incident, they are encouraged to report it.

Incorporate charitable resources. Fundraising is always a good go-to. You may also incorporate local companies or non-profits by giving them time to present or by offering materials at an information desk. You can also reinforce your position by partnering with companies who donate to the cause.

Never be a bystander. You planned this event, meaning you’re responsible for anything that occurs during it. Don’t let rumors, suspicions or even inappropriate humor slip. Always follow up and investigate.

Keep attendees safe. Ensure the safety of your attendees by putting in place a strong security system.

Personally

Educate yourself on the issue. What verbiage is best to use? What might trigger victims? How can legal action be taken? Being able to answer these questions, and similar ones, adds value to your role.

Take a stance. Report harassment if you see it. If you hear something offensive, don’t let it slide and correct misconceptions. Participate in conversations, virtually or in-person. Show up to protests or wear a teal pin—anything to welcome statements that signify unity.

Promote healthy gender attitudes. Endorse healthy masculinity, discourage rigid gender norms, it’s damaging to everyone. Many male victims are uncomfortable coming forward because of these attitudes, so shunning stereotypes helps everyone.

Work on the big picture. Get involved with the politics. What policies could help victims? How can you back these?

Connect with and support victims. There are many resources where you can volunteer. Some examples include: women’s shelters, RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. Offer support to victims and be mindful of language when speaking to them. Avoid phrases which may sound judgmental. Listen and sympathize.