Women Of The Channel Panelists Discuss Workplace Harassment: We All Have 'An Integrity Chip ... You Have To Leave It In'

Women of the Channel

Channel managers – both men and women – need to continue driving conversations about gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace, stressed a panel of executives at the Women of The Channel East conference, being held this week in New York City.

Speaking at the event, which is hosted by The Channel Company, the panelists said the first step in finding a solution for harassment in the workplace is to actually address it.

 “We all need to be held accountable [for having a conversation], even though the conversation is uncomfortable,” said Jennifer McDonald, senior director of partner marketing at Fortinet.

[Related: WOTC: With Gender Discrimination In The Spotlight, The Channel Has Critical Duty To Inspire Next Generation of Women In Tech]

Tricia Atchison, vice president of global partner marketing at CA Technologies, said the channel needs to play a role in making sure the next generation of men is more aware of gender equality.

Atchison said that the #MeToo social media campaign, where women used the hashtag to denounce sexual assault and reveal their own experiences with harassment, opened her eyes to how widespread harassment in the workplace is – even among her own personal acquaintances.

“While I haven’t experienced sexual harassment, I was surprised to see people I knew quite well post #MeToo on Facebook because it wasn’t something I knew about them,” she said. “I’m disappointed to see that this still goes on … we have to teach our sons how to respect women and ladies. As we raise our next generation, I think we have to take a hard look at how we’re having these conversations.”

Julie Christiansen, senior director of global partner marketing at Dell EMC, said that workplace harassment is such an important topic for women in the channel because they spend the majority of their time at work.

 “Even 30 years ago, I was trained not to be a woman. And while I was told it’s not personal, it’s business – it’s important to remember that it is personal because you spend most of your time at work,” she said. “We all have an integrity chip … you have to leave it in. I think, ultimately, whether it’s sexual harassment or another kind of harassment, no one wants an opinion or other forced on them.”

While the #MeToo campaign shed light on just how widespread harassment in the workplace is for women, channel executives said there is still a long way to in teaching the next generation to build an environment of respect for women.

And one of the biggest ways right now to build that kind of workplace environment is creating the dialogue and addressing the issue of harassment, said Kasia Hanson, director of partner programs, global markets and partners, at Intel.

“This has opened much needed dialogue between men and women. It’s interesting to hear others’ perspectives, but it’s the dialogue that’s important,” said Hanson. “It’s a turning point in our society and culture.”

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