Three professional women discussed discrimination and sexual misconduct in the corporate world on a panel at the Robins School of Business on Wednesday.
The panel included Alison Rogish, managing director of Deloitte, Wendy Wellener, vice president of human resources for Dominion, and Amanda Weaver, an associate in Williams Mullen Labor and Employment practice.
Weaver said there were basic laws employers had to follow, such as not discriminating based on race or sex and not retaliating against an employee who comes forward with information on an example of discrimination or sexual harassment.
She said that she had seen a large increase in retaliation charges that were typically the most challenging for employers to defend.
“Whereas in 1997, you had 16,000 charges a year that alleged retaliation, now it is more than double,” Weaver said. “During that time, discrimination and sexual harassment charges have kind of stayed the same.”
Wellener explained how Dominion builds processes and strategies based on ethics to help all employees understand the types of harassment and discrimination that may occur in the firm.
“We have four core values at Dominion, and one of them is ethics,” Wellener said. “Everybody at Dominion lives by them. We know that everyone has different perspectives and interpretations of that, but to us and to me, ethics is doing the right thing no matter who’s watching.”
Wellener also said that Dominion’s human resources sector demonstrated these ethics to their employees through awareness trainings. By giving real examples, Wellener said that the Dominion employees were able to comprehend the proper way to act in confrontational or uncomfortable situations.
“The way we ensure that we are in compliance with what we want to do is we talk to our employees about it,” Wellener said. “If they have a question or concern about anything, they could do it anonymously or upfront, but most people feel comfortable enough to come up to us in person.”
Rogish discussed a new family leave policy at Deloitte, which was announced two months ago and is offered to any employee, regardless of gender, who work more than 20 hours per week. Because of this policy, Deloitte employees are allowed 16 weeks of paid time-off in a rolling 52-week period.
The motivation behind this policy was to help female employees feel included in the workplace and to help all employees feel a sense of support in the firm while acknowledging the lives they have outside of work. Rogish said that the policy was meant to help foster an open culture at the firm.
“I’m so proud of Deloitte that we put this policy out there,” Rogish said. “At the end of the day, our main asset is our people.”
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