Women Meeting Planners Share Advice on Sexual Harassment

sexual harassment, meetings
Advice from women meeting planners on dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace and at events

With a majority of women meeting planners—56 percent—reporting having been sexually harassed at some point in their careers, according to a soon-to-be-released joint survey of 708 women by Prevue Meetings & Incentives and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence, we asked respondents for advice on sexual harassment in the workplace and at events.

Who better to provide advice on sexual harassment in scenarios common to meeting planners than their fellow meeting planners? Here’s some of our favorite advice from the nearly 400 women who wrote to us:

“See others as people and not the titles they may carry. Then it’s a little easier not to be overwhelmed.”

“HR is not there to protect you, they are there to protect company. So make sure you have proof and document everything so they can’t throw you under the bus.”

Speak Up and Speak Out! Remember we are someone’s Mother, Sister, Daughter, Niece. By not speaking we are making a silent statement that we agree with this. Turning a blind eye means we accept this. We do not want our little girls believing this is normal.”

“Be firm and strong and succinct when telling someone to stop and redirect the situation back to business.”

“The bulk of the harassment we experience/witness isn’t the stuff that makes headlines. It’s the little things. A remark here, a graze there. If you’re thinking, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal,’ or ‘I don’t want to be perceived a certain way,’ just stop yourself right  there. I believe showing no tolerance for the ‘little things’ is how we’ll reduce and, hopefully one day, eliminate sexual harassment.”

“Shine a great big bright light on those who believe what they do will forever remain hidden in darkness.”

“Be honest with yourself about what is actual harassment vs. friendly banter. And if you recognize that it is friendly banter, don’t be afraid to say, ‘I know you’re kidding around, but let’s not talk that way, I’m not comfortable.’ ”

“Step in when you see it happening to someone else and speak up when it happens to you.”

“Be careful. Be safe. The world can be a very dangerous place for us. Make sure that you have people who will watch out for you. And make sure that you watch out for them. Never be afraid to ask security to walk you to your room.”

“Look him in the eye and let him know he is crossing the line. Leave no room for ambiguity.”

“Don’t let the offender get the upper hand. If you’re a direct person, confront them directly but not by being equally disrespectful, but instead by being inquisitive. I once asked a man who sent me an illicit photo, ‘What exactly are you expecting in the way of a reply?’ The question alone left him flustered and he stopped.”

“There are other jobs, and there will always be other jobs. Don’t let yourself believe this is the only one and keep your mouth shut.”

“With #MeToo, women have the support to stand up for themselves, so don’t shy away from speaking up. I grew up in an environment where you didn’t rock the boat, especially with clients. Clients = money. So I knew my place in the hierarchy. I certainly speak out now, some of that has come with age, but it also feels good to know that as a collective group, women are just not going to take it any more.”

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Barbara Scofidio
Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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