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You may look at the tale of Harvey Weinstein and tell yourself this type of behavior does not exist in my business; “As a leader, I would never allow that to happen!” and that may be true. However, we see time and again that sexual harassment and anti-discrimination are relegated to a Human Resource function within an organization and do not have the necessary support from senior leadership. 

This is a recipe for failure that comes with legal, cultural, performance, retention and significant bottom line effects.

A top down approach where leadership has a key role in developing, implementing, empowering staff and modeling sexual misconduct prevention is critical to effecting change in your organization. A leader driven approach moves your business beyond lip service, sets the tone and helps inclusive, equitable and civil values come to life in your organization.

Here are six tips for leadership to live their commitment to anti-discrimination and sexual misconduct prevention.

Review It – As with any organizational risk, assessing harassment risk factors and taking steps to minimize or eliminate those risks is the job of leadership. Your policies and procedures should be comprehensive, easy to understand, and regularly communicated to all employees. Make sure your policies and procedures are a living document, regularly revisited and reinforced to your staff.  Which brings us to…

Say it –  Clearly. Frequently. Unequivocally. Stating that harassment is prohibited goes beyond mentioning it during onboarding. Leadership must weave language into their all hands meetings, newsletters and other corporate communication that showcases equity and states, without a doubt, that discrimination and sexual misconduct does not reflect the companies values and will not be put up with.

Empower it –  Is your Human Resource or Organizational Development team there to check the box or to transform your organization? Provide appropriate authority to the people or teams responsible for creating, implementing, and managing harassment prevention strategies. Make sure this voice is included at the senior leadership level.

Fund it –  Your CFO should be a champion for sexual misconduct prevention. Allocating sufficient financial resources is key for effective harassment prevention strategies.

Teach it –  Go beyond mere compliance level training of sexual harassment to incorporate skills such as uncovering unconscious bias, recognizing microaggressions and interrupting unwanted behaviors. All of which will help ensure you are committed to a culture of inclusion for everyone.  

React to it – The fastest way to fail is to not react. Leadership must support discipline that is prompt, consistent, and proportionate to the severity of the harassment. Once you have a report of misconduct, quickly activating your procedures with a keen eye to avoid retaliation will show the entire staff that you mean business. 

When it comes to sexual misconduct in the workplace, leadership accountability is key. Employees are demanding that their leadership; set policies in line with their mission, communicate, empower people and teams, fund initiatives, train every staff member and back it all up with swift and appropriate action. Following these steps will set your organization on the path to a more equitable and inclusive workplace. 


About Respect Outside

Respect Outside provides sexual-misconduct and gender-discrimination prevention trainings to businesses in the outdoor industry. Based in Bend, OR, and founded in 2019 by Gina McClard, J.D. and Jim Miller, Respect Outside is the culmination of Gina’s 25+ years as a lawyer/ anti-sexual-violence crusader and Jim’s 30+ years in the outdoors industry. As a team, the two merge their respective expertise to bring about a workplace revolution which ensures equitable treatment for people of all genders.