The Institute - March 2018 - 13
who may be exposed to banter. If
something someone says would not
offend a male team member, then the
female staffer should simply ignore it.
There is a big difference between an
off-color joke and being propositioned
by a boss. We seem to be labeling both
What to Do About
I'm sick of companies having politically correct harassment training for
all employees. That doesn't mean I'm
in favor of harassment, but this sort of
training creates fear over what you say
or do in case it might be misinterpreted.
We should focus not on what
we shouldn't do but on what we
should do when interacting with our
coworkers. We need to have respect
for each other-which not only
means being considerate of other
people but also sometimes cutting
people some slack.
manager showing a video and having
discussions afterward are by far more
welcoming workplaces than those
that do not.
Although it was uncomfortable
being the only woman in the room,
it was worth having the men think
about the way they interact and learn
that it's okay to ask questions and
start a dialogue about harassment.
I've also been in hostile workplaces, like the one Gosset describes,
and those companies had no such
training. Although offenders will
always find loopholes, the good
guys are sometimes afraid they'll be
fired for just saying hello to women.
Setting guidelines on how to interact
professionally is crucial to everyone.
I'm grateful to any company that
is willing to spend money on showing
the entire workforce a video and then
to pay them to talk about it. It shows
how important a subject it is.
As a female engineer, I've found that
companies that have sexual harassment training in the format of a
These discussions are still ongoing. To
weigh in, visit http://theinstitute.ieee.org/
AFTER WORKING AS AN ENGINEER FOR 30 YEARS,
Senior Member Nathalie Gosset lost her job in 2015 at the
Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the
University of Southern California. She says she was fired
because she reported her boss to human resources, accusing
him of making lewd and inappropriate comments to her.
Gosset's experience has been covered by CBS News and other
outlets. She has been unable to secure another job in her field.
In an interview with The Institute, she discussed her case
in pressing sexual harassment and retaliation charges against
her former employer. We also interviewed her attorney, Lisa
Bloom, about what others who find themselves in a similar
situation can do. The blog post was published in October.
I don't know if this woman was really
harassed or not. Perhaps her entire
story is true. However, I will remain
skeptical of these stories when there
is no audio or video evidence to
Women often don't report harassment
when it happens, because there are
reasonable odds of retaliation, such
as getting fired-as proven by this incident. In many cases, human resources
works to protect the company from
lawsuits, not necessarily protecting
employees from harassment.
Women have to decide whether they
want to be delicate damsels who
should be protected from all mention
of sex, or equal members of a team
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