The current sexual harassment debate in TT should be a “teachable moment” in the evolution of society as it grapples with the current local and international climate surrounding the issue, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Lynette Seebaran-Suite, has said.
“Let us seize the moment. Let the scales drop from our eyes and understand exactly what we are dealing with so we can put in the right mechanisms,” she said.
Seebaran-Suite was part of a panel discussion on “Boardroom Bullying” hosted by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the UWI, St Augustine yesterday. Other panellists included Fixin’ T&T’s founder Kirk Waithe; ANSA McAl’s corporate secretary and group head of Legal, Frances Bain-Cumberbatch; and Adeline Gregoire of Women Everywhere.
Seebaran-Suite was frank about the difficulties in engendering change.
“Never underestimate the resistance of the power network of male-oriented organisation,” she said.
Her sentiments echoed Waithe, who said that TT was a small society dominated by a smaller, chauvinistic, male-dominated corporate sector.
Nevertheless, the panel said the country should use the current environment as a “defining moment” for TT.
“Sexual harassment is not new but there is a certain level of awareness that has been raised because of what is happening here and globally. We need to seize the opportunity to keep the matter topical. Big changes in history has happened because of dissent,” Bain-Cumberbatch said.
Apply the pressure, she said, adding that in all her years interviewing people for jobs no one had ever asked her about a sexual harassment policy at the company. “When you ask about salary and benefits ask about sexual harassment polices. We have to place the importance on it. The onus is on us.”
Waithe concurred: “We have to be consistent.
“We have to insist that we are not accepting anything less. What we choose to accept is what ultimately defines us and for too long TT has accepted too little. This is a transformational moment in TT.”