What would the Sisters say about #MeToo?

May 21, 2018 Deb Canales, EVP, CAO

An open letter to the caregivers of Providence St. Joseph Health

One of the things that called me from corporate America to Catholic health care was its long history of working toward achieving social justice for all people. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and the Sisters of Providence recognized the dignity of each person they encountered, and they treated with respect even those whom society had cast aside. When I joined what is today Providence St. Joseph Health in 2014, I knew I’d be standing on the powerful shoulders of the women who created what is today the largest organization in the world founded by women.* Little did I know just four years ago how much I’d need to lean on them for guidance in a time of breathtaking societal change.

I had the opportunity to speak on-camera about this topic at our recent Governance Assembly, where a lot of time was devoted to the caregiver experience we are striving for.

What would our founding Sisters do?

Like you, I’ve been amazed at the sometimes daily revelations brought forward by the #MeToo movement. As the rich and powerful have been called to answer for years or decades of sexually harassing their coworkers, I wondered—what would the Sisters do to respond to #MeToo and #TimesUp? While we don’t have the luxury of asking the founding Sisters about the ways women were oppressed in their time, we can call upon the rich heritage of the ministry they founded, as well as the Sisters who serve today. It’s quite clear what they would (and do) say: Sexual harassment should never happen here, and we won’t tolerate it if it does. If they had a hashtag, it would be #NotHere!

I know I speak on behalf of our founders as well as our current leaders when I say that Providence St. Joseph Health stands with those who have come forward in pursuit of accountability and safe workplaces for everyone. Especially in times of social change, we look to our mission and values to guide us, and we stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable as we work to root out oppression while promoting justice for every individual.

If you see something, say something

As a High Reliability Organization, one whose workforce is over 75% female, we empower all caregivers to say something when necessary, whether speaking up for safety, shining a light on workplace harassment or putting a stop to disrespectful behavior. There are multiple ways to raise concerns. A caregiver may report issues to their direct supervisor, department or team manager, or senior leaders in their area. Our human resources team is always available to help, as is the confidential integrity hotline. When concerns are reported, an investigation is conducted and disciplinary action is taken as appropriate—but we can’t act unless you use your voice to speak up for yourself or someone else.

Doing more to ensure we have a supportive and positive workplace

Winston Churchill famously advised to “never waste a good crisis,” and with that in mind, I have asked our human resources team to make the most of the heightened awareness of sexual harassment by making sure each and every caregiver knows it has no place here. We’re taking a fresh look at our policies, reporting procedures, training and onboarding with an eye to strengthening what’s already in place to safeguard our people. I look forward to sharing the results of that work with you soon. In the meantime, thank you for treating each other, and those we serve, with the respect and dignity every person deserves. The women who founded this organization would settle for nothing less from us.

*Founded in 1856, Providence St. Joseph Health is the largest continually operating woman-founded organization in the world, in terms of both revenue and number of employees.

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