NEW YORK – On June 10 Hellenic Professional Women (HPW) presented a panel on the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment, current legislation, and future amendments to the laws of New York pertaining to discrimination and other subjects which have gained much press since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in 2018.
Frantzis welcomed the members of the organization and its guests and gave giving a brief introduction about the #MeToo movement and the influence it has had in implementing changes in the lives of women around the world.
“Sexual harassment is directly linked to power and happens frequently in the workplace where many still treat women like sexual objects. Our federal legislation has not yet managed to protect large groups of women. The new policies related to sexual harassment are auspicious, but they must be accompanied by changes in mentality so as to bring about the desired results. We are optimistic about these new developments and through our organization and its events we try to inform our members about all of the issues that concern our women.”
Frantzis founded HPW in 2007 and has since managed to create a powerful network of about 800 women who come from a variety of different business spaces. She wanted to create an organization to strengthen the role of women in the workplace and to promote cooperation and support among Greek women.
After her introduction, Frantzis gave the floor to the two young moderators, Vanessa Diamataris, the Director of Strategic Development for The National Herald who also oversees its English Edition, and Melanie Graf, Associate Vice-President at Prosek Partners. The moderators then introduced their distinguished guest speakers: New York State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer of S&P Global Dimitra Manis, and Eleni Melekou, attorney at Pardalis & Nohavicka.
The panel was representative of Frantzis’ policy of promoting the new generation of women leaders in the Greek-American Community.
Diamataris, one of the moderators, mixing information with humor, provided an overview of the developments in sexual harassment legislation. Graf followed by presenting questions to the panel.
Simotas is well-known for her concern about issues of importance to the Greek-American Community, but she is also a leader in the fight against sexual harassment. Explaining what the #MeToo movement means to her, she said is its about “transparency – it is the united voices of women who are no longer afraid to go out and say what happened to them. It is also a day of reckoning – where society finds out what happened to generations of women who were afraid to speak out. It is a day when those who want change were given the opportunity to create and support that change. #MeToo symbolizes a new beginning for women.”
For the 28-year-old attorney Eleni Melekou, the #MeToo movement means that women must assert their rights and know their company’s policy on sexual harassment. “There is nothing to fear if you are a victim. Raise your voice and fight for your rights. Don’t be afraid that you will be fired or transferred.”
By October 9, 2019, based on new legislation, all companies will have to complete a program called Τraining for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment – which will have to be repeated every year according to the laws of New York. The program defines harassment, and how it begins and ends – issues which sometimes can be very confusing and unclear. Through these programs employees learn the procedure they will need to follow in case their rights have been violated.
“There is no excuse anymore,” Melekou said. “Once you learn the law and the procedure that you have to follow to obtain justice you should run and get help right away.”
Simotas added that, “The people who harass think that their own rules are stronger than the law. But now, with the new policy, we give them the opportunity to rethink their actions. Harassment has not stopped yet, and it will not be stopped easily – but we can do it if we continue this dialogue so that the world can understand that this cannot continue. It must be made clear that harassment will no longer be tolerated. We have to exercise our rights so that future generations of women never get to know the humiliation that harassment can bring.”
Manis, an excellent speaker and a prominent member of the S&P Global team, spoke about her many years of experience in human resources and offered anecdotes of her personal life from early in her career.
The lively evening concluded on a passionate note with Diamataris declaring that “Greek girls can be fearless – but their Greek moms are even more fearless, and they will always stand guard for their daughters.”