We have all been reeling from the news around sexual harassment that's been coming out of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and even the Canadian entertainment establishment of late. It's depressing and shocking all the same that this behavior has been happening for so many years at the expense of countless innocent victims.

The heartbreaking #metoo posts that we saw all over the internet this past week provided further testimony to the problem of sexual harassment around the world, and to be quite frank, in every industry, including the promotional products industry.

Personally, my social media feeds were filled with close industry friends that were sharing their stories of sexual harassment. I also want to acknowledge the bravery of women that have chosen not to participate in the #metoo campaign as there are indeed other ways to share one's stories about sexual harassment, publicly or privately. I also acknowledge that this issue is not specific to heterosexual encounters as this is a problem that we see in same sex environments as well.

#metoo has made it clear that sexual harassment exists not just in Hollywood or Silicon Valley, but in other industries, including the promotional products industry. And we should talk about this.

Simply put, SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS NOT OK!  We can and should stand up and do all we can to ensure this rot of behavior does not exist. More on that below.

PromoKitchen was established 6 years ago to foster education and mentorship - from an independent vantage point - in the promotional products industry. The organization was set up by a curious group of industry professionals who were committed to starting conversations, bringing people together to improve the industry, and addressing the white elephants in our midst.

Every industry has white elephants, so why not address them in a curious and constructive manner?

An example of this happened a few months ago when we spoke with Amanda Delaney, now a sales rep with Imagen Brands, about her very public ordeal with drug addiction. Our industry is built on social interactions and long, and sometimes lonely, road trips where drugs and alcohol can provide social lubrication or comfort. Amanda helped us understand this world better and in the process created an environment where people could talk honestly about these issues.

The purpose of this post is to create an open and honest discussion about sexual harassment as it relates to an industry we all know and love, the promotional products industry.

What issues do we need to face to become a better industry where all professionals feel safe, secure and respected? Do we need to create a productive and honest conversation about whether what we see in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is also happening here? Do the power imbalances that we see between employers & employees, suppliers & distributors, distributors & end clients lead to challenging scenarios around sexual harassment? What do we about that? I know one such company in the technology world has done just that by sharing their "sexual violence policy" publicly for everyone to see. Is this a good thing? Do we need more of this?

We have referenced an excellent list of suggestions from Fast Company about what one might do if they have been sexually harassed in a work setting. In particular, we highlight the first suggestion “Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area for support, resources and local resources in your area.”

Note: this post is meant to open up a conversation about a very difficult subject that we see playing out in other industries. How can we impact change in a positive and constructive manner? What issues should we be facing head on? This is not a witch hunt, and *not* the forum for mentioning names – please be respectful of this so we can keep the conversation going. Rather, this is a place for all of us to come together to talk about how we can make our industry stronger, healthier, more fair.

To provide some additional context to this topic, Mark Graham sat down with Charity Gibson to record a special episode of the PromoKitchen podcast. In this discussion, Charity shares her experiences with sexual harassment and abuse as a way of helping others understand that this topic cuts very close to home. You can listen to the podcast here.

The PromoKitchen Executive Committee, Board of Directors

- Robert Fiveash, Mark Graham, Danny Rosin, Charity Gibson, Dale Denham and Larry Cohen