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Written Testimony of Jill Geisler Power Shift Project of the Freedom Forum Institute

Acting Chair Lipnic, Commissioner Feldblum and members of the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about the Freedom Forum Institute's Power Shift Project.

Jill Geisler, Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women's Leadership, also holds the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago. After many years in management in broadcast journalism, she became an educator and has conducted leadership and ethics training for hundreds of newsrooms and other organizations around the world.

Cathy Trost is Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Freedom Forum Institute, overseeing the Power Shift Project. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal who covered issues related to gender in the workplace, she was also the founding director of a national journalism center which trained reporters to cover issues of income inequality and family policy.

In our remarks, we want to focus on the important work of the Freedom Forum Institute's Power Shift Project in developing solutions to combat sexual misconduct in the media industry.

But as we do, we'd like to express how much we have relied on the EEOC's own work. The 2016 report from this Task Force has been an invaluable source of evidence and insight for the Power Shift Project.

The Power Shift Project was launched by the Freedom Forum Institute, the education and outreach partner of the Newseum, in the wake of new revelations about the pervasive nature of sexual misconduct in the media and other industries. The project flowed from core beliefs in gender equity and fair treatment for all which have been woven into the ethics, programs and missions of the Newseum, Freedom Forum Institute and Freedom Forum, (the foundation which is the principal funder of both the Newseum and Freedom Forum Institute) from the start of each organization.

The project grew out of the groundbreaking Power Shift Summit convened by the Newseum in January, 2018, with more than 130 newsroom leaders, editors, reporters, educators and advocates participating. The summit was organized to generate a solutions-based discussion about what newsrooms and media organizations were doing to deal with emerging cases of sexual misconduct, and what systemic changes were needed to end harassment and promote opportunity for all.

From the Summit emerged the Power Shift Project, a national industry-wide initiative to improve the quality and future of journalism by improving the diversity, equity and culture of news organizations. The Project's goal is Workplace Integrity, defined as environments free of harassment, discrimination and incivility - and filled with opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it.

Lessons learned from the Power Shift Summit informed the work of the project. Among the participants at the Summit were media organizations that were in the eye of the storm, dealing with cases of misconduct, along with members of the group Press Forward media women whose personal experiences with sexual misconduct led them to band together on behalf of solutions. There was a sense of new urgency and serious commitment among participants to fix these problems and create meaningful, sustainable change.

The message from that day was loud and clear: there was abundant and critical work to be done. It was reinforced in the official report based on the summit, which identified seven key Power Shift Principles about workplace imbalances that protect the powerful and intimidate and silence others, especially interns and young employees.

Our report - echoing the EEOC's own findings - found that

  • Sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination are inextricably linked
  • Workplace incivility and bullying are gateways to harassment
  • Stronger harassment reporting and training systems are essential
  • Women's leadership and empowerment, supported by men, can provide solutions.

The Project has already had impact:

  • Multiple journalism organizations have incorporated Power Shift and Workplace Integrity sessions into their annual conferences.
  • The Freedom Forum Institute created "Power to the Interns" Strengthening Intern Preparation in a #MeToo World, a live program broadcast from the Newseum in March, 2018 which has been viewed by more than 2,000 people. A group of newsroom leaders, educators, legal experts and university students offered practical advice on what educators and employers need to know and need to do to ensure workplace integrity for these vulnerable workers. Videos of the event are archived online as well as Tips for Educators Who Supervise Student Internships, Tips for Employers Who Hire Interns and Tips for Newsroom Interns.
  • The Power Shift Project collaborated with Press Forward on a major public program at the Newseum in April, 2018 focused on "Equality in Newsrooms: Ending Sexual Harassment and Redefining Respect. Panelists representing the Power Shift, the Wall Street Journal, PBS, The Washington Post, the National Women's Law Center and more discussed how to move towards equality in newsrooms and end abuses of power.
  • A diverse Power Shift advisory board was formed including news media leaders, HR professionals, educators and advocates to help guide the project.


Looking forward, the Power Shift Program will present an in-depth program with New York University and media leaders in New York City in the fall. We will also convene a second annual national Power Shift Summit at the Newseum early next year, and we are preparing to launch additional resources including a newsletter and podcast.

But we're most excited about a program that will launch this month. Jill Geisler created a Workplace Integrity curriculum that is custom-tailored for media organizations. On June 26 and 27a diverse group of more than 30 media industry leaders will come to the Newseum for a 2-day Train the Trainer course on the "Workplace Integrity: Train the Trainers curriculum. They will leave prepared to deliver the training in their organizations.

We know that traditional anti-harassment training was ineffective in stopping the misconduct that has recently rocked the media industry. The Workplace Integrity curriculum is different: It's not about lectures, warnings and compliance, but a forum that carefully sets the table for people to think, talk and learn together, to put a stake in the ground for respect and decency, and chart their own path to culture change.

The "Workplace Integrity" curriculum is built around three pillars:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Courageous Conversations
  • Cultures of Respect and Trust.

To create the curriculum, Jill drew on what we have learned from the Power Shift Summit, EEOC data on harassment and discrimination, research on bias in decision-making, contemporary writing on gender and diversity issues, and combined it all with her own experience working with journalists and leaders who want to improve their cultures. We use a format that allows staff to work together in teams, under the guidance of a skilled facilitator who speaks the language of the newsroom.


We are both optimistic and clear-eyed about the project. Even if we magically end sexual misconduct in workplaces tomorrow, we'll still be left with longstanding issues of inequality in pay and power - and even in respect - at some organizations. But it's a start.

The Power Shift Project's Workplace Integrity curriculum- and all of our initiatives - consider the intersections of gender, race and ethnicity, age, power and other factors. While we teach people how to respond to improper workplace situations, our greatest emphasis is on how each of us, and especially leaders, can be proactive: taking a stand, creating solutions and embedding the values of workplace integrity into our everyday interactions. That is what will lead us to a true Power Shift.