Sexual harassment | A little less conversation, a little more action please

publication date: Feb 7, 2018
author/source: Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE

The recent scandal of the President's Club in the UK has appropriately sparked an international backlash. And it looks like the #MeToo Movement may have finally hit the charity sector with the resignation of the CEO of the American Humane Society amidst allegations of sexual harassment that date back to 2005.

Sector leaders are appropriately horrified but we really shouldn't be surprised. Our organizations exist within our larger culture. According to research cited by the Canadian Women's Foundation, 43% of women have been sexually harassed at work. We live in that culture and it seeps into our own workplaces, even when the workplace is a charity.

One thing that has not received enough attention in this social conversation is that both sexual harassment and sexual assault are criminal offences. So, whether you are a manager of paid staff, or a manager of volunteers, you have a legal obligation to ensure you have created a safe environment for the people reporting to you. Here are three things you can do to help yourself and coworkers.

Review your policies to make sure they are up to date. Even if you are a junior employee, if you are managing volunteers, you can "manage up" to your boss with a statement like "with all this talk in the news about sexual harassment, I looked up our policy because I manage volunteers. I also found that some women volunteers successfully sued a charity in the US. It would be timely for us to review our policy and our training." You can go into that conversation armed with this sample policy from the Human Resources Council of Canada on sexual harassment plus this information from the Ministry of Labour on this topic.

Protect yourself and your colleagues. Kelly Nolan of Informed Opinions* reminds women "When being recruited for a new job, insist your contract does not obligate you to sign a non-disclosure agreement in cases of harassment and insist that you have an independent third party to manage harassment complaints. Stand firm if they twist and turn in their seat trying to justify why this can’t be done."

Nolan further reminds us to "connect and build alliances with the most vulnerable women in your organization. They are the targets that powerful predators prey upon. Advocate for them." She also tells us to "Speak up about the creeps in the office women normally whisper about amongst themselves."

Let's educate ourselves about sexual harassment. Reading a lot in the news but not sure what sexual harassment is? This set of examples from the Ontario Human Rights Commission offers a series of clear examples of sexual harassment. 

What I am suggesting is that we keep talking and also take a lot more action. And we need to give ourselves permission to not always get it right. But we need to keep going to make change.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the editor of Hilborn Charity eNews. She is also the Chair of AFP Congress 2018. It is her enormous privilege to shine a light on how to make the charity sector better.


*I am on the Advisory Council of Informed Opinions.

Calgary fundraising leader, Steve Armstrong, has published a post on how men can be allies.

The title of this piece is an intentional nod, and re-framing, of the Elvis Presley song.

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