By Karen Daly, ICMA Mountain Plains Regional Director
I’ve recently had the unfortunate opportunity to visit with several colleagues about sexual harassment situations. While this issue has been around for a long while, it confounds me that I think the conversation is the same as it was in the 1980’s. “Don’t file a complaint because it will ruin your career” or “I really don’t want to do this to the City that I’ve worked so hard for.” While it’s easy for me to sit on the sideline and give my colleagues advice, I think it’s more important to shift the narrative that runs in that scary female brain of ours. That narrative would be “How does the situation ever change if no one ever says anything? Would you want your daughter, or another young woman, walking into the same situation?”
Recently, one of my colleagues who did file a complaint was going on a job interview. Her situation had been quite public and we talked about how she should handle it during the interview with the Council. We both felt it was critical for her to bring the situation up first and take control of how it was approached in the interview. She let them know this is not her typical behavior or problem-solving approach and it was done with a lot of thought and anguish on her part. All of what she said was the truth and I believe the truth can be very powerful. City Councils don’t want this type of environment in the workplace nor would they want any of their female family members to be in this type of situation. A trusting environment begins during the interview process and City Councils will pick up on cues that are genuine and heartfelt.
Instead of feeling like they have a Scarlet A, women who have reported should have a badge of courage. They have taken a risk to make a horrific situation better and they should be applauded.
I look forward to the day when women can do the right thing without fear of their job, their career or their reputation. In the meantime, show them some love and support.
EDITOR’S NOTE: More information regarding identifying, preventing and reporting sexual harassment can be found here:
Karen Daly is a former city manager and Mountain Plains Regional Director for ICMA. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.