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Discussion on women in the workplace draws a crowd

A housekeeping director said promoting women is a department challenge.

Ben Triplett, assistant director in the housekeeping services department at UNC and a defendant in the lawsuit filed last week, attended the talk because he wanted to learn ways to encourage women to be successful in his department.

“Most of our department is women, but we have challenges internally in terms of trying to encourage women to apply for and seek leadership positions,” Triplett said.

In his lawsuit, Clifton Leon Webb, a former zone manager in the housekeeping department, said Bill Burston, the former director of housekeeping services, would fire black housekeepers to hire Asian housekeepers, who would reciprocate with sexual favors. In his lawsuit, Webb said he was fired for giving this information to his supervisors.

Anne Litwin, author and consultant, visited UNC on Tuesday to speak about ways women can work together to make workplaces more inclusive. The talk was based off of the findings from her new book, “New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing The Way Women Work Together,” which aims to help people understand the gender dynamics that influence women’s workplace relationships.

The talk came at the onset of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which begins today.

Litwin believes many groups, including people of color and young people, face issues of inclusivity. Her talk was mainly focused on how women can strengthen their relationships.

“I don’t want to say that there’s something wrong with women — it’s very complicated,” Litwin said. “The society that we’re in and the organizations that we’re in really, in a way, kind of set us up against each other. But if we can’t see that, then we can really act out and make things more difficult for each other when it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Debbie Bousquet, assistant facilities planner for Housing and Residential Education, attended the talk with a man she directly reports to at work.

She says she is looking forward to seeing what he got out of it and how changes will be implemented in her workplace.

“I think it’s very timely and I think it needs to occur more often,” Bousquet said.

The 11 groups that sponsored the event included the Center for Faculty Excellence, the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals and the Carolina Women’s Center.

Clare Counihan, project coordinator at the Carolina Women’s Center, was involved in the selection and planning process for the event. After reading Litwin’s book, Counihan felt that the UNC community could greatly benefit from the insight Litwin provided.

“We, like the rest of the world, are not perfect, so it always helps to have somebody who has done a lot of research and can provide the really practical tools and strategies framed in the context of that research and that knowledge,” Counihan said.

“I would like students, faculty and staff to have some practical strategies for addressing any kinds of gendered barriers they’re facing in the workplace.”

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