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Sarah Soliman  (left) and Courtney Stanley giving a presentation on sexual harassment in the meetings industry at MPI WEC18 MPI
Sarah Soliman, president and CEO of Soliman Productions (left) and speaker, writer, and business strategist Courtney Stanley, giving a presentation on sexual harassment in the meetings industry at MPI WEC18

In the #MeToo Era, Is It Still OK to Hug?

People are pretty huggy in the meetings industry—but maybe it’s time to do a boundary check.

At a session about sexual harassment at the giant hug-fest that is Meetings Professionals International’s World Education Congress, held this week in Indianapolis, Sarah Soliman, president and CEO of Soliman Productions said that a male friend greeted her with a hand out for a shake instead of the hug they’d shared for years. He was worried that perhaps she was only tolerating that hug and had been feeling uncomfortable but never said so.

She assured him that wasn’t the case, but it did make me think—is it time to do a boundary check now that we’re all becoming more aware that one person’s go-to greeting might be outside another’s comfort zone? Most of the time, you just know—as Soliman’s co-presenter, speaker, writer, and business strategist Courtney Stanley said, we all instinctively can tell whether someone's being friendly or creepy. But some of us have, at least until now, tolerated a certain level of creepy to keep from rocking the boat. 

To hug or not to hug when greeting colleagues at a conference is just one tiny piece of the conversation around sexual harassment that we need to have.

I have committed to doing what I can to keep that conversation going so that #MeToo remains a movement, not just a moment before we move onto the next hot topic. Because I'm a writer, that means I plan to be writing some stories—hopefully stories that will help us all get a better handle on how to be respectful of boundaries, support each other, and keep ourselves, our staff, and our meeting participants safe from sexual harassment.

Will you please help by taking a few minutes to fill out our survey on the topic? I promise it is anonymous, short, and important. I also would love to hear your stories, again, to be kept confidential unless you give me express permission to share.

Here’s the link to the survey, and you can call or email me anytime at [email protected], 978-448-0377.

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