Contributor: Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown
Time is up for being complacent in the wake of widespread sexual harassment. The Women of City Council have introduced a bill to mandate annual sexual harassment training for all city employees. Currently, not all city employees receive this training. We join state and federal elected officials who are addressing this issue head-on through legislation.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a widespread, intergenerational and complex epidemic. Enforcing mandatory training is a concrete step in the right direction towards working against it. While we cannot cure the societal issues surrounding sexual harassment with this training alone, we will work to spread awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and how co-workers and employees can identify and address it when experiencing it or as a bystander.
The training is intended to educate employees on civility and appropriate behaviors towards co-workers, making certain to stress not only not how to act, but how to conduct oneself in the workplace. Studies indicate that more women report incidents of sexual harassment when sexual harassment is clearly defined. Our goal is to make certain to provide that definition to all employees.
“Thirty-Three million American women were sexually harassed at work in 2017. Fourteen million were sexually abused at work. To make matters worse, out of those millions of women who have experienced unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, 95% report that male harassers never received consequences.”
Sexual harassment is a serious problem, especially in the workplace. More than half of American women have experienced unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from men. For one-third of women, these unwanted advances have come from male co-workers, and of these women, 8 in 10 reports that the advances were serious enough to be deemed sexual harassment. Thirty-three million American women were sexually harassed at work in 2017. Fourteen million were sexually abused at work. To make matters worse, out of those millions of women who have experienced unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, 95% report that male harassers never received consequences. These numbers are unacceptable.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem for the City of Philadelphia as well. Over the last ten years, the city has paid out $326,500 to settle sexual harassment allegations from city employees. City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is investigating Philadelphia’s sexual harassment payouts and policies through a formal audit. We commend her on this initiative to seek out justice for employees that did not have the resources, support, and structure in place to prevent sexual harassment from happening to them.
This is a huge step forward. It’s more than time to start investigating how sexual harassment is handled by the city government. However, it’s crucial to work systematically to decrease instances of sexual harassment in the first place. Mandating annual sexual harassment training will move us towards this goal.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shone a spotlight on the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially against women. Civil rights activist Tarana Burke began this movement when she created the #MeToo hashtag 10 years ago, and since other actresses and activists came forward this Fall with their own stories of sexual harassment, the movement has spread like wildfire. This is good.
This movement has inspired me. I have dedicated my career to advocating for women. I have to admit that it remains an uphill battle. This movement has energized me to continue finding new ways to fight for equality as we unpack the systemic issues of our country revolving around race, gender, and class.
“It is time to get to work and to do our own part on the local level. I join the other women who want to work to decrease the prevalence of sexual harassment in Philadelphia government. Never again will a woman’s career become derailed due to unwanted advances from a co-worker or supervisor. Never again will a woman’s brave step forward in reporting be met with silence or unjust consequences.”
It is powerful to hear so many courageous women coming forward with stories of sexual harassment. It is time to get to work and to do our own part on the local level. I join the other women who want to work to decrease the prevalence of sexual harassment in Philadelphia government. Never again will a woman’s career become derailed due to unwanted advances from a co-worker or supervisor. Never again will a woman’s brave step forward in reporting be met with silence or unjust consequences.
We are holding hearings at City Council for citizens to testify on the importance of sexual harassment training in the workplace. This legislation calls for a change to the Home Rule Charter, which means that voters will have to vote to mandate annual sexual harassment training. We need your help in getting this passed. We need your votes. We need your ears. We need your voices.
We need you to believe and know that this is a historic and transformational moment in which women are on the verge of being viewed as more than sexual objects across the country – a time in which all generations of men and women look back at a past that was encumbered in rape culture and sexist and misogynistic policies in a societal environment that unrightfully belittled the rights of women.
Women across the country are right. That time is up and #TimesUp. We will make certain to protect our little girls and young women that will shape our future from what so many of us have unrightfully endured.
We together can work towards a world where all people #BelieveWomen, where perpetrators of harassment are prosecuted, and, most importantly, where fewer women have to live in fear of being harassed when they walk into work every day.
Time’s up. Let’s get to work.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown