Becoming a Diamond in a Rhinestone World: Setting the Standard for Member Inclusion in the AAGL
In late November, the AAGL Board of Directors received a letter from a group of members outlining concerns regarding gender equality in our organization. The Board immediately responded by creating a Task Force on Anti-Harassment, Diversity, and Incident Reporting to review and revise AAGL’s existing policies in order to be proactive and create a safe, productive, and inspiring environment for our members.
This Task Force, with the assistance of the AAGL staff and outside expert consultants, have drafted several important policies which have been approved by the AAGL Board of Directors and were implemented in early February 2018. These policies are based on the Task Force’s vision of an optimal member organization and based on an extensive review of policies adopted by other medical and non-medical societies and best practice legal opinion.
Highlights from the policies are as follows:
The Anti-Harassment Policy:
It is the policy of the AAGL to provide an environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation to its members, employees, and guests at all AAGL sponsored activities.
The policy defines harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination in clear terms. All AAGL members, guests, and industry partners are expected to abide by this policy during all AAGL sponsored activities.
A Grievance Committee has been formed to investigate and adjudicate any complaints made under this policy.
AAGL encourages reporting of all perceived incidents of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. Three options have been put into place for such reporting, including email or phone to the Executive Director, email to the Grievance Committee, and by phone to the AAGL Hotline during the AAGL Annual Congress or Regional Meetings.
An investigation process and disciplinary action have been codified, in which the Grievance Committee will perform an investigation of the complaint, will have the opportunity to seek input from appropriate legal counsel, and will make recommendations to the Board of Directors. Any adverse action will require approval of the AAGL Board of Directors, and may include warnings, reprimands, requirement for training, loss of a leadership position, or expulsion from the AAGL. In order to avoid bias, the identities of the parties involved will remain anonymous until the Board makes its recommendations. A process for appeal is also outlined.
Retaliation is prohibited.
The Inclusion and Diversity Policy:
This policy makes it clear that the AAGL promotes an environment of respect, fairness, integrity, and inclusiveness in all its activities.
The AAGL Grievance Policy:
A Grievance Committee has been formed. The purpose of this committee is to receive and investigate complaints made under the AAGL Anti-Harassment Policy. The AAGL Grievance Committee Policy addresses the formation, membership, qualifications, and conduct of this committee.
The Task Force has also implemented requirements for leaders in the organization. Each incoming leader of the AAGL, to include members of the Board of Directors, members of the Scientific Program Committee, and members of the FMIGS Board, will be required to undergo sensitivity training prior to initiating their responsibilities. The current Board of Directors have set the standard by undergoing this sensitivity training prior to the first in-person Board meeting that was held in late February 2018.
While the Task Force has completed its charge, the work of moving the AAGL will certainly continue. In order to ensure that the meetings, activities, and leadership of the organization reflect its membership and promote enthusiastic members from all backgrounds, a Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been formed. The ongoing activities of this committee will ensure that the AAGL keeps this momentum and vision during this time of improvement and beyond.
The AAGL is committed to be the premier organization caring for women through gynecologic surgery. We vow to be at the forefront of Anti-Harassment, Diversity, and Inclusion. Our policies and procedures set the stage for our membership to enjoy a safe, productive, and collaborative experience at every AAGL-related event.
The policies noted above can be found on the AAGL website at www.aagl.org.
The members of the Task Force on Anti-Harassment, Diversity, and Incident Reporting were Jubilee Brown (Chair), Ted Anderson, Linda Bradley, Barbara Levy, Shanti Mohling, Jessica Shepherd, Matt Siedhoff, and JD Villegas. Linda Michels and Frank Loffer were monitors and Colleen Lovret and Seth Spirrison staffed the Task Force and did extensive background research drafting these policies.
*Title adapted from a quote attributed to Dolly Parton.