The American College of Healthcare Executives sent the right message when it expedited the adoption of an emergency resolution condemning sexual harassment. But the college's effort should just be the beginning.
The ACHE's executive committee of the board of governors was spurred to act by the finding that nearly one-third of female healthcare executives who participated in a recent survey have been sexually harassed by a co-worker within the past five years. Another 5% of male executives said they, too, were victims of sexual harassment during the same period.
In the wake of the 1991 sexual harassment charges that Anita Hill made against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, many may believe the issue no longer represents a major problem. Perhaps that's because the subject remains largely in the shadows. For example, a search of MODERN HEALTHCARE's library uncovers few stories on the subject, although one high- profile allegation involved Bruce Siegel, M.D., former president of New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., who resigned amid denials of any wrongdoing following a formal complaint by a female employee.
ACHE President Tom Dolan said his organization never had a sexual harassment policy for its membership because "we didn't know the magnitude of the problem.
"That suggests at least some women (and this is primarily a problem facing women) are reluctant to go public with harassment accusations lest they be embarrassed or seen as troublemakers. But high-level women executives among the ACHE's 27,000 members made a vigorous statement through the survey.
Speedy adoption by the full board could make the ACHE's strong stand for "zero tolerance" of sexual harassment a call for industry action. Healthcare organizations should follow the college's example and adopt forceful anti-harassment policies for their instituti ons. Finally, individuals of either gender need to act boldly and forcefully when they encounter behavior that is clearly offensive.