Posted by Bob Martin

Three of the founders of MaineCanDo, Betsy Peters, Melanie Sachs, and Stephanie Brock, shared with us Friday the story of the creation of Maine’s unique response to the #MeToo movement and acts of sexual harassment by members of Maine’s business community. MaineCanDo ( is a website designed to help individuals, organizations, investors, and boards confront issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly those who have suffered, or witnessed, sexual violence or harassment. 

“This website is the first of its kind to provide a set of tools for individuals and businesses,” said Melanie Sachs, Executive Director of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine. “Two in five Americans have experienced sexual violence in the workplace,” she said. “And three in ten have observed it.” “Society has raised the bar,” Betsy Peters stated. “The real impact is to humans and society. For enterprises, the strategic imperative is clear, one letter on the internet can bring a company down.” The intent of the website, according to Peters, is to provide an “authentic Maine response” for individuals and businesses. “Maine is a land of small businesses,” she said. “Small businesses don’t have HR departments.” Sachs related that Maine law requires companies with more than 15 employees to conduct sexual harassment training. “Maine is not on the leading edge of this issue,” she said. “California is nine times stricter. But the real question is, are you going to do compliance, or are you going to do better?”

“There’s an ‘ick’ factor to all of this,” Peters stated. “Stuff we just don’t like to talk about.” The effort stemmed from an inciting incident involving Stephanie Brock who said she “drew a line” after offensive behavior toward her from Jess Knox, with whom she had been working on Maine Startup and Create Week. “We can’t grow in a community when leadership looks like this,” she said. She wrote letters to all the boards of organizations with which Knox was affiliated. Knox did not dispute the charges, and agreed his behavior was inappropriate. “I got a swift and fair response from all of them,” Brock related. “But it was a scary thing for me to do. This website will help others who find themselves in the same situation.”

The presentation of the three women struck a chord among members who engaged in a supportive discussion during the Q&A period. Laura Young rose to share her MeToo moment by relating her discomfort and distress at a Portland Rotary luncheon where two male members engaged in jokes about male genitalia. “Other male members around the table looked uncomfortable. What was I supposed to do, laugh? These are never funny,“ she said.

Upon a motion, the club agreed to sign the MaineCanDo pledge as an organization, the first Rotary Club to do so. “I wholeheartedly support Portland Rotary signing this pledge,” Club Protection Officer Nan Heald said.

MaineCanDo Pledge:

We, the undersigned, know that Maine can do better and will do better. Join us in our pledge for Maine to be home to respectful and harassment free workplaces.

We agree to:

• Review workplace sexual harassment policies in light of #MeToo and audit how they work in practice.

• Create and assure that appropriate and safe mechanisms are in place to report, measure and track complaints of inappropriate behaviors whether intentional or unintentional.

• Be proactive in developing respectful workplace cultures.

• Designate and ensure employees know of go-to members in organizational leadership who will ensure grievances are taken seriously, investigated fairly, and resolved quickly.

• Commit to an ongoing review of sexual harassment and discrimination policies, practices, and workplace climate at the highest levels of leadership to ensure they are making a practical impact.

• Use our influence as investors and board members by committing to increased attention on and an intentional review of policies related to human capital and to supporting workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination.

(Photo L-R: Melanie Sachs, Bob Martin, Betsy Peters, Stephanie Brock and President Don Zillman.)