Statement by NOW President Toni Van Pelt:
The Washington Post is reporting that the Humane Society of the United States is resisting making broader changes in the wake of the resignation of CEO Wayne Pacelle, who’s been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. After a law firm was hired to investigate the claims, the board of directors shut down the inquiry without taking any action, falsely claiming that the probe found “no credible evidence” of harassment. Two hours after that statement was issued, Pacelle resigned.
Now, donors are asking new CEO Kitty Block to replace the board chair, Eric Bernthal, launch a new investigation into past complaints of harassment, and apologize to the women who felt unsafe at work. These are all good steps, but they should be only the beginning.
The Humane Society has said it will consider another inquiry, and has committed to “a comprehensive culture change initiative” and a “board governance review” to be conducted by outside experts. These are promising words, but they need to be followed by concrete actions.
Here’s a suggestion. Instead of hiring more lawyers and management consultants, why not go to the experts on sexual harassment and workplace culture. There are many groups hard at work today to transform the culture of sexual harassment and assault to one that respects women and values them as equals. If the Humane Society really wants to bring about change for women, they should invite women’s groups who have professional expertise in this area to be part of the transformation.
Dee Donavanik, firstname.lastname@example.org, 951-547-1241