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#MeToo discussion coming to Yellowknife

A local law office will be holding a “Lunch and Learn” about the #MeToo movement in the workplace at the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce later this month.

Caroline Wawzonek, a barrister and solicitor at Dragon Toner Law Office will be doing the presentation on June 26.

“Given that #Me Too is sort of everywhere on social media, how does that relate back to employment and workplaces and workplace culture?” said Wawzonek.

The presentation is targeted at employers, management, or anyone in the workforce Wawzonek said.

“The genesis of it is to translate something that’s a social media phenomenon into something that’s meaningful for management,” Wawzonek said.

The presentation will discuss how to deal with things like harassment and sexual harassment policies and procedures, particularly in an age and in a culture where there is a real social movement happening around that, she said.

This is particularly important in Yellowknife, where there are lot of small and medium-sized employers who may not have an HR department to deal with cases of harassment.

“Yellowknife has a really strong business culture, but they’re busy, they’re hustling, they’re not necessarily going to stop and say, that’s a thing I should pay attention to,” said Wawzonek.

But Wawzonek said this conversation is not just about Yellowknife – it’s something everyone should be talking about.

It’s not as though Yellowknife has a rampant problem and is desperate for its own #MeToo movement, but that doesn’t mean that’s it not there, Wawzonek said.

“We have certainly had cases reported from some industries that were very traditionally male-dominated,” she said.

At the same time, there’s a lot of work happening at some of the mine sites around attracting women, firstly, to STEM positions, but also to an industry that they themselves know is traditionally male-dominated, said Wawzonek.

“So in some ways, Yellowknife is well-placed to have some leadership on that front,” Wawzonek said.

This discussion is timely, given recent talk at the legislature about increasing the representation of women in politics.

“That’s the thing about #MeToo, is that it impacts literally every industry. There’s huge discussions going on around it in the legal industry, because of a lack of women at a certain level  of leadership,” said Wawzonek.

“If you’re assuming that it’s not going to affect your workplace, or affect someone close to you, or around you, that’s probably inaccurate,” she said.

That’s kind of what #MeToo stands for, is the idea that harassment actually is quite prevalent, sometimes in the most innocuous ways, said Wawzonek.

“But it can also be how people look at a female leader as opposed to a male leader, and how they talk about that at their water cooler in their office and how that makes the female officemate feel during that conversation,” Wawzonek said.

Wawzonek said there’s a few things she wants people to take away from her presentation.

The first is that earlier is easier.

“Don’t wait, don’t think it’s going to pass you by, don’t think the movement’s going to end, don’t think it’s not going to be your employee who’s on social media who’s learning about this. Early is better. Deal with it now, be aware of it now,” Wawzonek said.

The second thing is that process will protect you. If everyone in a small office has a clear understanding of the definitions of harassment and what the policies and procedures are regarding a complaint, then it’s easy to follow it if a complaint is made, said Wawzonek.

“Nobody has to sit there and rack their minds and go, well what do I do now? Whether I feel I’m being harassed, or if I’m someone who’s been accused of being a harasser, or if I’m the employer saying, what to do with the complaint,” she said.

Wawzonek said she feels people are interested in this topic, as she’s seen the event being shared on social media.

“There’s a different generation that are more on social media, not uniformly but in general, and a different generation that is less so. And that too is something that you need to start having a conversation about. This can’t just be a social media movement,” she said.

It’s a difficult issue, because people maybe want to talk about it, but are concerned about what’s appropriate to speak about in the workplace, said Wawzonek.

“So that’s the difficulty with some of these issues, is that people get too scared to even speak or don’t know how to start the conversation, which is part of what I want to talk about,” she said.

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