Excerpt from an article in ‘Corporate Risk and Insurance’ on the response to sexual harassment claims by corporations, authored by Montieth M. Illingworth, CEO and Global Managing Partner of Montieth & Company.
Who had ever heard of the Presidents Club two weeks ago?
We all know about it now, and when the names of all 360 male attendees recently surfaced in the news media, multiple corporate communications departments scrambled to manage the inevitable fallout. Some organisations took the right steps in withdrawing their support for the so-called charitable purpose of this annual event. Others didn’t. Probably everyone who attended wishes they hadn’t.
The organisation itself made the major misstep right out of the gate by justifying its event because it helped raise money for good causes. Derided as a “fig leaf” statement to distract people from the entirely sexist nature of the annual dinner, and the conduct of the partygoers towards the female servers, the group then said it would return this year’s donations to the guests.
But then this is all now very familiar. The news media headlines revealing yet another sexual harassment matter come almost with regularity from all sectors of society – from government through to sports teams, schools, entertainment, financial services and beyond. There is no apparent end in sight to these revelations and for a simple reason: they are arising from what have become powerful movements, #MeToo and #TimesUp.
Say what you will about how fair or reasonable the accusations are, they will continue. There is a view that it’s not the severity of the allegation that matters, but that every act of sexual harassment, and even every utterance that creates a sexually hostile work environment, has to be exposed.