Lobbyist Has To Change The Way She Does Business In Era Of #MeToo
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The growing awareness about sexual harassment has opened up a dialogue in the workplace and changed behavior. But that transition can have awkward moments, too. Jennifer Green has been a lobbyist in the Florida state legislature in Tallahassee for more than 20 years, and she's found that she's had to change the way she does business. Jennifer Green joins us now from Nashville, where she's traveling on business. Ms. Green, thanks very much for being with us.
JENNIFER GREEN: Thank you.
SIMON: Can you give us some idea of how you've had to change?
GREEN: Absolutely. I think that the - an initial greeting with a member of the legislature of the opposite sex has resulted in a handshake versus what would be normally - in the South - a hug hello. It's a pretty comfortable - it's never usually awkward.
SIMON: So - but you feel a little awkward now cutting it out?
GREEN: I think it's on both sides that folks are acting - they're not really sure how to conduct themselves when, normally, their behavior would be nothing but normal.
SIMON: With respect, that doesn't sound so serious in and of itself. Are there other aspects of your behavior you've decided to change?
GREEN: A normal in-office meeting that might be an in-office meeting about a policy issue where a door would be shut isn't being shut. I had a situation that happened the last legislative committee week where a member of the legislature who I work with and have a tremendous amount of respect for indicated that he was concerned having a door shut without a legislative aide or a staffer in the room. And my first response was, I'm not uncomfortable with you. Are you uncomfortable with me? And his response was of course not. But you never know what people are going to say when a door's shut. That's a new dynamic that is pretty unbelievable.
SIMON: I wonder - do you have any concern, Ms. Green, that women who were lobbyists and women who are legislators might be politically affected by this change in behavior - that, for example, lobbying firms will be reluctant to hire women or give them some of their better clients?
GREEN: That could certainly be the case. I can speak for myself. I'm a, you know, a female-owned firm. I own my own firm and have for 10 years. And I could certainly see a scenario where I'm up for, you know, a client - I'm in competition with another firm that's owned by men. And the deciding factor wouldn't be based on my experience or previous, you know, client recommendations. It could be based on the fact that - oh, we don't want to hire a female lobbying firm, you know, in this environment.
SIMON: The awkwardness you describe - is it maybe necessary to get through that to come out better on the other side?
GREEN: I don't know about necessary. But I think that if there are, you know, members or staff or other lobbyists that are concerned about perception - absolutely. And a door being open or someone not having dinner with a female lobbyist - a male member - you know, or having another staff member or a colleague from your lobbying firm with you probably is a good practice. And I know that we've done that in my firm. And it's not that we're concerned. But it's more the perception of, you know, better to be safe than sorry.
SIMON: Jennifer Green is the president of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee. Thanks so much for being with us.
GREEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.