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Alumni and students gathered Saturday afternoon at the Office of Career Services for a roundtable discussion on sexual harassment in the workplace hosted by the Harvard Alumni for Global Women’s Empowerment.
Attendees shared experiences, opinions, and insights on sexual misconduct in the workplace, and strategized on how to combat it.
Global WE is a shared interest group of the Harvard Alumni Association, with members in several countries. Discussion facilitator, Julie G. Palmer ’84 said the roundtable sought to further Global WE’s mission: to empower women through education, dialogue, and connection among individuals working for women’s rights and freedoms worldwide.
Both Palmer and Rebecca C. Ribaudo ’93, who co-facilitated the discussion, said they wanted to emphasize that not only women are victims of sexual harassment .
During the event, discussion topics included corporate cultures and environments, the influence of the #MeToo anti-sexual assault movement on culture and opportunity, and how and when sexual misconduct occurs. The conversation also touched upon taking action, ranging from being a good bystander to holding corporate Human Resource departments accountable.
Sajida H. Shroff, vice president of Global WE, focused on differences in how society treats girls and boys. Shroff said girls are usually told to aspire to be “good girls” and that doing so will give them the most rewards in life.
“You were taught to live by the rules, which is not a bad thing. But the world has changed. The world has changed a lot,” Shroff said. “I don’t think we were taught to change with the world”
Shroff said she now encourages girls to “be bad.”
“Be strong, be yourself, be assertive. By being bad, I mean take responsibility for yourself and for your actions. Live up to your potential, and do what you need to do, as long as you’re not hurting other people,” Shroff said.
While Global WE predominantly operates as an alumni organization, Gabriella D. Kaplan ’18, who serves as College co-liaison for the group, shared excitement about her plans to start a Global WE chapter starting at the College this fall.
“We are hoping to begin an on-campus Global WE chapter next year,” Kaplan said. “We are really excited because we have a cohort who are really on board.”
Event moderators said the discussion was a safe and supportive space.
“We often let ourselves be disempowered, but the beauty of Global WE is that we raise awareness around different issues to inspire change on a personal level and, over time, hopefully, on a societal level,” Shroff said. “If you talk, something will happen.”
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