By Marcia Bronstein
If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it is that being silent is not an option. Being silent is how the status quo keeps on keeping on.
And for change to be achieved, staff professionals and volunteer board members will need to work together to transform the narrative and alter the outcome of the many scenarios that play out over and over in the open — right under our noses in Philadelphia agencies every day.
Here are some examples:
You are a senior staff member whose wife recently had a baby. Your support associate, a single woman, confided in you that she recently moved, and the director of facilities said he would help her hang shelves and photos. When he went to her home after work, he groped her and threw her on the couch. She screamed, and he left. She wanted you to do something to help her. You know that the agency climate is not supportive and raising this issue would be problematic for you. So, you told her to go to the president of the board. She quits, and you feel guilty. What do you do now?
As an agency executive, you’ve been engaged in a search process for six months to fill a high-level staff position. You finally find the perfect candidate and are excited about his credentials and experience. He has an excellent committee interview and feels confident that he can elevate your fundraising and bring donors to your organization. All his references check out except one, when you are informed that he was asked to leave a position for sexual harassment allegations. When you ask him about it, he explains it was a misunderstanding and he left for professional advancement reasons. What would you do?
A department head of an agency was being sexually harassed verbally by the its executive director for several years. All the staff seemed to know about it, but, alas, he was the director, and staff didn’t feel they had a place to go to voice concern. Finally, the department head asked for a meeting with the board president and shared what was going on. She was told that he would talk to the director, but could not let him go because the agency depended on him. After that, she quit and contacted a lawyer. What would you have done?
Your agency gala honors one of your most generous donors. He is a gentleman who has supported your organization for decades and recently made a major multimillion dollar capital campaign gift. At the gala, the event chairwoman who is on the board presented him with the award. Although she stuck out her hand, he enthusiastically grabbed her, kissed her, inserted his tongue in her mouth and said that he always loves to kiss beautiful women. She contacted you as board president and threatened to leave the board if she did not receive an apology.
What do you do?
These scenarios are real, and staff professionals and volunteer board members often confront these types of situations in their roles.
Outcomes vary depending on whether the agency is a safe space to discuss the myriad of issues involving participation in communal life within today’s #MeToo climate.
Staff professionals and volunteer board members need to be able to:
- Define sexual harassment and identify it
- Explore the power narrative
- Look at how power dynamics play out in the workplace
- Explore common communal harassment and challenges in the communal service world
- Understand the policy for harassment and who to go to with issues.
Only after this is achieved will the community be poised to elevate the conversation, solve the issues and pave the way for the next generation of staff professionals and volunteer board members to cultivate, nurture and grow our community.
Marcia Bronstein is the AJC regional director, a past president of the Jewish Communal Professional Association of Greater Philadelphia, a past vice president of the Association of Jewish Community Organizational Personnel and the former chair of the Committee on Women.