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Summit addresses challenges, identifies solutions to handling sexual misconduct
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The dynamics of an organization's power structure can contribute to pay inequity, inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, said speakers at a recent panel discussion on sexual harassment in the media industry. And those dynamics impede employees from speaking out about sexual misconduct they experience on the job. The way to overcome the problem, speakers said, is to find ways to help employees report abuse and to diversify the workplace."Power often leads to issues of discrimination at large," observed Sarah Glover, president of the College Park, Md.-based National Association of Black Journalists. She was among panelists Tuesday at The Power Shift Summit in Washington, D.C. A culture in which a star employee is protected despite his or her inappropriate language or behavior sends a message that calling out that behavior could put the victim's job in jeopardy.While the event featured speakers from the media, there are takeaways for HR professionals, managers and employees in all workplaces.
"In the aftermath of [TV journalist] Charlie Rose's termination, we had to look at our employees … and how to take care of them," said panelist Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, senior vice president/news administration for CBS News. Rose, who hosted the "Charlie Rose" show for PBS and the "CBS This Morning" show and was a contributing correspondent for "60 Minutes," was fired after allegations he made unwanted sexual advances toward female co-workers. "We have very strict policies [about harassment] … [but the problem] wasn't about the policies. We had to figure out how to address employees in a way that was more personal."
I do what I do because I want to make any workplace I'm a part of better. As HR leaders, our job is to continue to push until we feel that the organization is in the right place.
"Until we understand that having a diverse and inclusive organization is the road to economic success, we will never make progress," said Julia Wallace, a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, who was in the audience."It can't just be women talking to women. Part of the problem is we would get together and talk about what needed to change, but we couldn't do it alone. It's got to be partnering with men to make a difference." Men are an important part of changing the culture, according to Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief at USA Today and author of That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together (William Morrow, 2018)."By not including men in this conversation, [there are] two unfortunate side effects: We demonize the good guys. And—because we're not sharing these concerns and issues we face every day—these guys are clueless; they just aren't aware of what the issues are."
Mayor started a series of listening sessions with employees after chief news editor David Sweeney left in November 2017, amid sexual harassment allegations that at least three female journalists filed against him. Michael Oreskes, NPR's senior vice president of news and editorial director, was forced to resign over sexual misconduct allegations earlier that month.Three themes emerged from Mayor's listening tour:
Training needs to cover how people should behave and interact in the workplace, "how to give feedback to someone if their behavior is bothering you, and how to receive that feedback if you didn't intend to be malicious in any way. What do you do as a supervisor when a worker comes to you with a complaint?
"All of that should be part of holistic harassment [prevention] training," she said. "If you really want to stop harassment, you have to … look at what are the rude and uncivil behaviors that are happening in your workplace. Incivility is a gateway drug to harassment."
Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día, The Dallas Morning News' Spanish-language newspaper and president of the Columbia, Mo.-based American Society of News Editors, pointed out a need for changing what is incorporated in manager training.And CBS News' Ciprian-Matthews noted that offering online training about preventing sexual abuse and harassment is good but not good enough. Her employer brought in an outside expert, who provided training for executives earlier in the year."That has been a huge success. It added a personal, interactive [element]" that allowed questions to be asked and nuances of harassment to be explained, Ciprian-Matthews said."Sometimes the online training can be very neutral and not as relatable. This other kind of training, with somebody who is an expert in the field and [who] engages people, makes for a very dynamic conversation" and helped break through any distrust that might have existed.
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