Encinitas Advocate News

The Grauer School hosts panel on sexual harassment in the workplace

Girls from The Grauer School heard first-hand accounts of how sexual harassment in the workplace can affect women when the school's Girl Rising Club presented a panel on the issue Jan. 23.

Speakers at the event — part of the private school's Great Conversations" series, now in its 27th year — included Emily Nestor, who helped sparked the #MeToo movement after accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment; Local Pastor Dave Nagler; Attorney Merrili Escue, who has advised companies on all aspects of employer-employee relationships for nearly 20 years; and Luke LaCroix, director of residential administration at the University of San Diego.

During their time on the panel, participants shared how sexual harassment in the workplace has either affected them or people they know.

When asked why she decided to come forward with her allegations against Weinstein late last year, Nestor said she knew she would have no regrets whether people supported her or not.

"I wanted to be on the right side of history," she said, adding she wanted to be a voice for women who have been silenced.

Emily Nestor
Emily Nestor, who helped spark the #MeToo movement after accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of inappropriate behavior, speaks on a panel on sexual harassment in the workplace at The Grauer School in Encinitas on Jan. 23. Brittany Woolsey

Nestor considered herself "lucky" because she was hired to be a four-day temporary employee of the Weinstein Company. After allegedly receiving sexual advances from Weinstein on her first day, she knew she wouldn’t have to see the famed movie producer much longer.

On that first day, Weinstein had asked her out for drinks, Nestor said. She declined but agreed to go for coffee instead. At that meeting, Nestor alleges that Weinstein offered to help her advance in her career in exchange for sexual favors.

Since Nestor first publicly spoke about the incident last year, more than 100 allegations have come out against Weinstein, Nestor estimated.

She said it is important for women to know their safety comes first if men can't respect their boundaries. She said she wished she would have listened to her gut telling her that she couldn’t trust Weinstein.

"If something doesn't feel right, say no," she said. "If it feels wrong, it probably is."

Escue added that females should not worry about feeling embarassed or "causing a scene" for saying no or bringing up sexual allegations.

Luckily, she said, the law is starting to move into the right direction. For example, companies can no longer ask a prospective employee about his or her salary history, which means women have a better chance at getting paid more equally to men, Escue said.

Dave Nestor
Local Pastor Dave Nagler speaks about what men can do to help protect women at The Grauer School in Encinitas on Jan. 23. Brittany Woolsey

Nagler, of Christ Lutheran Church in San Diego, said he believes men can help women in the workplace by being allies.

He said an issue is that sexual harassment is often thought of as a women's problem when it is actually a problem of men. It is even harder to raise young men to think differently when influential people, including President Donald Trump, have been accused of sexual assault and freed of the charges, he said.

For too long, Nagler said, men have been put into dominant positions.

"Men ask women out," he said. "Men kiss women first.”

At the end of the panel, an audience member challenged the Girl Rising Club to encourage more boys to attend their meetings and events. (The event was largely attended by female students.) When the girls responded that they extended an open invitation to the entire school, rather than just the female population, the audience member echoed Nagler's statement that it was a men's issue, not women's.

The audience member said boys shouldn't feel ashamed of wanting to support women or for doing something their peers wouldn't, such as speaking up when they see a female friend being harmed.

Nagler added that because names, rather than just statistics, are now being shared — thanks to the social media movement #metoo, in which females were encouraged to share their stories of their own sexual harassment — people are beginning to realize the severity of an issue that has affected women for decades.

"The #metoo movement has been a big spotlight for us to start paying attention," he said.

In a statement released before the event, Alicia Tembi, Girl Rising's faculty sponsor and a history teacher at The Grauer School, said she believed having the panelists speak at the school was an effective method for the students to learn about the issue of sexual harassment.

“Education is the most potent weapon we have to combat the rampant sexual harassment affecting all sectors of society," she said. “We desperately need safe spaces where young men and women can learn from others’ experiences, understand their choices and know the power of their own voice.”

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