EXCLUSIVE: Andrew Armes, UK head of talent acquisition at Roche, Elizabeth Prochaska, legal director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Gina Martin, writer and upskirting campaigner, are to take part in a panel discussion around international sexual harassment and assault campaign #MeToo at Employee Benefits Live 2018.
The session, titled ‘#MeToo: from a moment to a movement’, will form part of the diversity and inclusion conference stream on Wednesday 3 October 2018. The panel discussion will broadly cover the #MeToo campaign and its impact on the workplace and employers, and each panellist will bring a different angle and expertise on the topic, to provide a range of insights and practical takeaways for delegates.
Prochaska plans to focus on sexual harassment laws, how to bring legal claims and what changes need to be made to both employers’ practices and the law itself. She will further highlight how sexual harassment and assault can impact on employees’ mental wellbeing, and how this can therefore be addressed within a workplace mental health strategy; for example, linking mental health initiatives with bullying and harassment processes.
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“It’s really important that we work out how to talk about [harassment] openly and how to take positive steps to address it, so that people don’t have to experience it anymore,” Prochaska said. “We need employers to take active steps to address it and come up with solutions.”
These steps could include encouraging employees to report sexual harassment using mechanisms such as anonymous reporting, and making sure employees are not victimised if they do report an assault of this nature. Prochaska also recommends providing protection to those who want to raise a complaint and ensuring that policies employers have in place are actually implemented in practice.
Martin, on the other hand, will approach the discussion from an activism and women’s rights perspective, demonstrating how individuals can harness their own talents and power to create change. Martin will highlight the importance of individual voices and their impact, and will discuss how the #MeToo movement of Hollywood fame can be applied to the average workplace. “There’s a real need for that to trickle down into everyday life and I think having these conversations and discussing how we can harness the learnings from that movement is really valuable,” she said.
Martin will also emphasise the importance of listening, something Armes is also passionate about. “Every single instance is entirely different, so I think it’s a big opportunity for us to listen to individuals’ experiences instead of talking about them,” Martin explained. “[We need to listen] to get a wealth of real people’s experiences before we start talking about how to solve that. It’s essential because only by listening to these stories and hearing human experiences can we know how we can beat inequality in the workplace.”
Armes agreed: “It’s all about the quality of listening at different levels, to ourselves as much as to others, and recognising when we are excluding or making somebody feel like they’re not being included. If the quality of listening goes up, [organisations are] going to harness the value of the diversity that [they] have in [their] organisation.”
For Armes, #MeToo is one part of the diversity and inclusion puzzle, so he will be using the panel debate to raise awareness around exclusion in the workplace generally, for example to consider disabled individuals. “Yes, we’re addressing a fundamental issue and a key issue around diversity and inclusion [by discussing #MeToo]; at the same time, that is also raising difference as a whole and how we need to be more inclusive and aware of those differences,” he added.
Armes is also keen to provide delegates with a nudge to look to their own behaviour regarding inclusion, as well as talk on interventions and practices that could be rolled out at organisations. This could include, for example, promoting learning and development programmes, leadership development programmes or personal development programmes, which could all help employees improve their listening skills.
Employee Benefits Live 2018 will take place on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 October 2018 at ExCeL London.