We often talk about empowering women through the context of history. But we have come a long way since the days of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone.
This year has been one of the most consequential regarding fairness, equality, and protections. The issue of workplace sexual harassment has become a topic for national discussion. No longer isolated incidents, these reports are sweeping every industry.
Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp are encouraging women to speak up. We must confront these issues head on and work to ensure a safe and supportive work environment where female employees can succeed.
Suffolk County has led the way by implementing workplace safety measures. We value the dedicated employees who work hard and give back to their community. At the same time, we want to prevent inappropriate workplace conduct.
In February, we strengthened employee protections by signing two bills into law to combat sexual harassment and discrimination. One requires annual reporting of sexual harassment and discrimination claims in the county workplace. The second requires newly hired employees to receive “Know Your Rights,” a pamphlet detailing county policy on reporting inappropriate workplace behavior.
Last year I signed legislation requiring county elected officials, department heads, and chief deputies to receive sexual harassment training every two years. Now, Suffolk will provide sexual harassment training to more than 9,000 county employees. This ensures that every employee partakes in an online training video to better equip them with the tools and resources to prevent sexual harassment in county government. Our employees’ safety is a top priority, but it is also necessary to recognize the unique views and perspectives female colleagues.
In March, I met with several groups of hard-working women staff members who are exceptional role models and leaders. They are instrumental to our work every day.
One staff member I met with was Geri Hart. When I nominated Geri to become the next Suffolk County Police Commissioner, young girls, including my own daughters, were inspired. Geri is an inspiration for countless women who want to shatter the glass ceiling and work in high-ranking positions.
Besides Geri, a number of women serve in leading roles in my administration – from commissioners, deputy county executives, directors and more. I have always believed in the importance of inclusivity, diversity and fresh perspectives. That is why we must continue to empower women in high-ranking positions in Suffolk, in New York State and nationwide.