"We have a long way to go, but it's moving."

by Mia Rossi

April 12, 2018

Industry professionals offer insights about sexual harassment, gender inequality and a changing tide in the post-#MeToo workplace

Chris Kosakowski of Vera House, Laurie Orlando of CBS News, Kristina Hahn of Google and assistant professor of advertising Rebecca Ortiz
Chris Kosakowski of Vera House, Laurie Orlando of CBS News, Kristina Hahn of Google and assistant professor of advertising Rebecca Ortiz Photo by Kai Nguyen

“We want you to feel that you are prepared and well informed,” said Rebecca Ortiz, assistant professor of advertising, and moderator of the panel discussion “From #MeToo to #NowWhat: An empowering conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.” The event, sponsored by the Syracuse University Women in Communications chapter and the Career Development Center, was an open forum for industry professionals to openly share experiences unlocked by the #MeToo movement—a movement that saw thousands of victims coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment, both on and off the job.

Alumnae Laurie Orlando ‘87, senior vice president of Talent Strategy at CBS News, and Kristina Hahn ‘98, director of Americas Partner Solutions and Innovation at Google, sat on the event’s panel along with Chris Kosakowski, campus educator and workplace sexual harassment initiative coordinator at Vera House, a domestic violence advocacy center in Syracuse.

The panel began by defining terms: what is sexual harassment? The panelists agreed it can be a variety of things stemming from abuse of power expressed through gender-based or sexual aggression.

“It could be any advances of a sexual nature, jokes or comments,” said Kosakowski.

“Anything that means you are being held back because of your gender,” said Orlando. She and Hahn both agreed that the training for how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace is improving.

“We have training every six months at CBS News and CBS Sports,” Orlando said. “Leaders are not taking this for granted.”

Because of this, Orlando said, the students in the audience are entering the workforce at a time when they should feel empowered. “Don’t feel like you don’t have the ability to say ‘this doesn’t work.’”

Hahn said that the voices of the women who have spoken out during the #MeToo movement are already being heard in her workplace environment. “I walk out of a meeting and now have men say, ‘I’m so sorry everyone was talking over you,’” she said. “People are noticing.”

While awareness is creating a safer workplace environment in general, the panelists stressed that sexual harassment does still occur, and when it does, the best course of action is to go straight to human resources.

“It’s imperative that you go to HR or you will not get an investigation,” said Orlando. Both Orlando and Hahn advised students to find a “sponsor” (someone they can go to for advice and support) when they start working.

“Find someone you trust and who has your back,” said Orlando.

The women also encouraged students to think critically about the questions they ask potential employers. “Ask about the culture; they’re interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing them,” said Hahn. “I would love for someone to ask in an interview, ‘What are the values of this company?’”

While they acknowledged that there is still a long way to go, Hahn, Orlando and Kosakowski are all encouraged by the improvements they’ve seen.

“You have a lot more women raising their hands now,” said Hahn. “We want to ‘be the change we want to see in the world.’ We have a long way to go, but it’s moving.”

Mia Rossi is a senior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.