Me Too and Time’s Up — Now What and What’s Next?


By Marcia Bronstein

An important byproduct of recent events has been the raising of awareness of harassment and gender bias in public spaces and individual consciousness. Since my published commentary in the Dec. 20 issue of the Exponent, “Everyone Needs to Speak Up,” I have received comments from male colleagues, female colleagues, acquaintances, board members and readers encouraging me to dive deeper on the issue. The common thread of the feedback was praise for raising the issue and through a Jewish lens.

The time is ripe following on the heels of the Time’s Up campaign at the Golden Globe Awards and the Women’s March for empowerment. Now we must utilize our voices toward action. More than 40,000 people attended the Women’s March in Philadelphia and now we need to take that momentum and use it for self-reflection and contemplation of all our interactions. What do we do when confronted by harassment or gender-biased situations, how do we act, what do we say and who do we tell?

“I am now worried that if I touch an arm, pat a back or anything that I normally do in interactions with all people, it will have negative ramifications,” a male colleague recently said.

A female colleague shared: “Telling my buried stories over the past few weeks has been emotional but it feels good to share knowing that people will now understand.”

“The world is very complicated and scary,” a male board member surmised. “I won’t even undress in a locker room at the JCC when a children’s swim program is going on and the counselor is not visible from where I am changing. Who knows what could be imagined to happen? And so it’s best to not take chances.”

How many people have recognized themselves in any of the myriad stories on TV, radio and all forms of social media? And if so, have they the self-awareness to recognize where they have crossed the line? Have they admitted it out loud? Have they taken steps to change or have they buried the issue as a nuisance?

How many organizations have recently reviewed their non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies? How many have sent them around to employees? How many have put the issue on staff meeting agendas?

What can be done now that will result in substantive changes? One step is for workplaces to adopt a policy and to live the values of that policy.

What is your workplace policy on discrimination and harassment? Does it include the following straightforward concepts? Organizations should be committed to work environments in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Individuals should work within a professional atmosphere that promotes equal employment opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including harassment. There is an expectation that all relationships in the workplace will be business-like and free of bias, prejudice and harassment.

If your organization has not shared its policy, perhaps ask for a copy and ask that it be on the agenda at an upcoming staff meeting and board meeting. There should be a definition for harassment and gender bias. Without a written definition there is little hope of supervisors and CEOs having the ability to deal with these matters, much less for workers to be able to have their rights protected. We need to work in environments where harassment is strictly prohibited and measures actively protect workers against all types of harassment, whether it is verbal or physical conduct that disparages or shows hostility or dislike.

If you work in an organization that does not have an HR department or a policy for dealing with harassment or gender bias, consider it a big red flag and act accordingly.

I encourage everyone to keep speaking up and out. Know the definitions and know what is protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines. As for those who ask, “What’s next?” or how to keep the conversation going, I respond with, “Know your rights and keep talking, because this conversation will continue.” 

Marcia Bronstein is the AJC’s regional director for Philadelphia and South Jersey.


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