Women To Watch - Page 32 - #MarylandToo

Women To Watch
- Page 32
A year after the movement began, #MeToo is making strides in state laws and local workplaces

By Jean Marbella
The Baltimore Sun

Call it #AnnapolisToo.

This was the year that sexual harassment emerged from the shadows in the state capital, where legislators passed new laws to combat it even as they investigated allegations of misconduct against one of their own.

Neither the legislation nor the investigation might have happened, activists say, if not for the #MeToo movement that began sweeping the country one year ago. Following explosive sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, thousands of women began sharing their own experiences under the now familiar hashtag, leading to the firing or resignation of media, political and entertainment figures.

The movement made its way to the Supreme Court last month, when women accused nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was a student at Georgetown Prep in Montgomery County and later at Yale.

#MeToo has led to changes in lower-profile industries as well, in Maryland and elsewhere. Last month, for example, the Bethesda-based Marriott International was among a group of hotel chains to announce they would equip housekeepers, long considered among workers most vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault, with portable panic buttons to call for immediate help.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says three out of four incidents of workplace harassment go unreported, activists say the movement is beginning to provide a certain safety in numbers.

“The presence of the broader #MeToo movement, and this moment in history, served as a bright light,” said Charly Carter, a leader of Baltimore Women United, among the groups that pressed lawmakers to pass anti-sexual harassment measures at their session this year.

Business consultants say one of the effects of #MeToo is the understanding that how a company deals with sexual harassment speaks to its broader culture — something that at a time of low unemployment is important in recruiting and retaining talent.

Christine V. Walters, a Westminster-based consultant, also sees efforts to broaden the scope of how companies address sexual harassment. In the past, the focus was on the alleged wrongdoer and victim; now, co-workers are encouraged to be part of the solution.

“It’s like at the airport, ‘if you see something, say something,’” said Walters, who started her company FiveL in 1998. “We have to take care of each other.

“At the least, go to the co-worker [who was harassed] and ask, ‘Are you OK?’ Remind them what the company resources are,” she said. “Or go to the person you thought was offensive, and say, ‘I heard what you said.’ ”

Photo Description:

Charly Carter’s group Baltimore Women United was among those that lobbied for anti-sexual harassment legislation in Maryland. Photo by Amy Davis