The simplest way for companies to combat sexual harassment (Opinion)

Roberta Kaplan may be the founder of a women-led lawyer Kaplan & Company LLP. Kaplan also acts as Seat of the Diversity and Inclusion Panel for Vice Media LLC. She actually is representing a woman getting sued by Hollywood producer Brett Ratner for defamation. The views expressed in this commentary will be solely hers.

(CNN) From NBC’s Matt Lauer to Def Jam’s Russell Simmons to US Senate candidate Roy Moore, accusations of harassment and assault as a result of high-profile leaders are actually seeing the long-overdue light of time. We will be witnessing a cultural tipping level for girls. In response, a recent New York Times content explained that many men at corporations are starting to wonder whether they themselves were involved in gender misconduct or somehow “ignored the signs.”

Roberta Kaplan

Some men are now reporting that they intend to avoid women at the job or follow the “Pence rule,” named for Vice President Mike Pence, who has said that he will not eat alone with women who are not his wife or attend an event without her if alcohol will be served. Going in that way is a huge mistake. Instead, as this #MeToo second reaches across sectors and demonstrates the pervasiveness of workplace harassment, companies have to set clear values, and live by them.

In this uncertain and continuously changing environment, isolating and excluding women in the workplace will need us in the incorrect direction. Companies shouldn’t dread women’s voices in 2017. They should be enabling opportunities for girls to come onward through anonymous hotlines, secure reporting mechanisms and anti-retaliation measures. As new headlines prove, when girls don’t feel noticed at the job, they will get them to heard elsewhere. A recently available Wall Street Journal/NBC Information poll discovered that an astonishing 48% of girls in the United States claim to have already been sexually harassed.

Companies now face a moment of decision: take a step backwards or perhaps take a step forward. The answer to harassment at work is not a return to the Mad Males era, excluding girls from business meetings, cocktails with consumers and networking opportunities. That would be both fundamentally inconsistent with the law and bad for business.

Not only may be the “Pence rule” incompatible with the laws requiring that women come to be afforded equal opportunity at work, but it is also a missed opportunity to embrace the second and to foster and promote women’s voices at work. When companies are correctly attentive to sexual harassment, everyone benefits. When girls don’t feel secure to speak up (whether about sharing a new thought or reporting misconduct), institutions are deprived of important ideas.

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