Some Thoughts On Positive Change In The Wake Of the #MeToo Movement?

Vu Le posted an intriguing article at NonprofitAF that provides some straightforward suggestions for what organizations can do and the nonprofit field as a whole should consider.

  1. We must examine power dynamics in the perpetuation of sexual harassment.
  2. We must create an environment that is safe for our staff, volunteers, and community members.
  3. Board members must understand their roles.
  4. We must be willing to lose donors, even major ones, who are abusers.
  5. We must consider the intersectionality of race, disability, transgender, and other identities.
  6. Funders must provide resources to combat sexual abuse and gender-based violence.
  7. Capacity builders must provide more trainings and convenings on these areas.
  8. We men must do our own work, including examining how we may be unintentionally harming women.

Each of these are applicable to the orchestra field as any other nonprofit but I’d like to take a moment to add a few additional items that address some of the unique aspects of orchestras as workplaces.

We must insist that music directors and conductors with titled positions undergo mandatory sexual harassment training tailored to their unique position.

That includes everyone from Riccardo Muti down to a conductor walking into his/her first position.

No exceptions.

In addition to the initial training, regular refresher courses should be part of the regiment.

Ideally, a conductor with standing such as Muti would be among the first to embrace and espouse the notion.

A key component here not to be overlooked are artist managers. Although I hope they too would be supportive, executive committees and CEOs should be prepared, and have the courage, to walk away from an artist if his/her representation pushes back against the requirement.

Institute sexual harassment training geared toward administrators and musicians in leadership/supervisory positions.

Of particular interest here should be the way administrative employees interact with temp staff and how principal musicians interact with colleagues in their section. Special attention should be given to principals with the authority to add, remove, or influence the call order for substitute musicians.

This training should also include a regular refresher courses.

To a large degree, Le’s point #7 about funders providing resources to nonprofits for efforts such as these is doubly important in a field where most organizations don’t maintain full time HR staff.

I’m not talking about offering subsidized programs. Instead, orchestras desperately need a major funder to provide a comprehensive discrimination and harassment training program free of charge.

Even if it’s only something that can be offered free of charge for a limited number of years, that would inevitably go a long way toward making positive gains.

If not now, when?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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