Many of us have been in a situation where a co-worker or manager has said something sexist or inappropriate. How we deal with these situations depends on a number of factors - history, privileges and whether or not we have the right tools and training.

Having the tools to properly address these incidents is one of the goals of the new #RaiseTheBar Workplace Equity Training program from the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region and Male Allies. The program, which is funded by the Department of Justice, is offered to help companies understand how actions, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs make a healthy or unhealthy workplace. “Behaviours that you’d think of being from the past still happen – it’s just people are more covert,” said TK Pritchard, Public Education Manager at Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region. “It’s just not as visible – like a boss walking by and grabbing a woman’s butt.”

I spoke with Pritchard and his colleague Chris Martin, a gender-based violence educator, about the program and tactics that men in the workplace can use to be good allies. 

One of the most common examples we spoke about was being an ally during meetings. Pritchard gave a scenario where a woman speaking in a meeting would be cut off by a man. “In situations like this, you might speak to the co-worker after the meeting instead of dealing with the harm in the moment,” Pritchard said. Instead of calling the person out, he recommends you call them in by addressing it in a non-confrontational way. You can be a good ally by saying something like “... I didn’t hear the rest of what Sarah was saying …” and then following up to let the person know that they’re cutting people off. It’s a good opportunity to remind them that your team is stronger when everyone’s voice is heard.

Power dynamics can play a role in these conversations – especially if it’s your direct manager who made an inappropriate comment. “When someone has more power than you, you behave differently,” Pritchard said. If you find yourself in this situation where you can’t speak out, Pritchard recommends finding another manager you trust. “You need to know your allies. Someone might say they’re afraid to because it’s their boss who’s committing the offending behaviour, but really they’re choosing their own safety and comfort rather than helping someone.”

While the #RaiseTheBar program is offered to all companies, Pritchard and Martin hope to engage with new companies as they get off the ground. “We mostly do reactive work because something has happened. We’re helping put out fires, people have been harmed,” Pritchard said. “We want to help companies address these issues before something happens.”

Having policies in place is important, but they don’t always capture things that cross the line. The #RaiseTheProgram provides information on the rights and responsibilities for employees and employers – but more importantly, gives tools on bystander intervention and male allyship that can help create greater gender equity in your workplace.

Echoing one of tech’s mantras, Pritchard said it’s important to “... be disruptive in these patterns of behavior. We can’t eliminate all unconscious bias, but if you don’t disrupt them and understand them, that leads to unhealthy workplaces.”

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As we get closer to the holidays, I see and hear that TWH Social is the place to be for holiday classics performed with a modern jazz twist this Saturday, Dec. 21 with Brownman Ali and his hard-swinging mainstream jazz quartet. Over at Starlight Social Club on Saturday, Dec. 21, you can catch Rob Szabo & Steve Strongman's 15th Annual Holiday Show starting at 7:30 p.m. Last, but not least, it’s a Last Minute Market for your holiday shopping over at TWB Brewing Cooperative on Saturday, Dec. 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.