A member of Maine’s entrepreneurial community was just outed for sexual harassment. The fallout from this will affect our community for a long time, because he harmed the women he is accused of targeting, his wife and family, his business partners and people involved in entrepreneurial initiatives. Others can step up to talk about the damage done; I’d like to use this as an opportunity to have a conversation about what we need to do to move forward.

I started my PR and marketing business in Maine in 2000, and I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with many members of our business community. I’ve volunteered my time to build events to bring people together, worked to promote Maine companies, served on nonprofit boards, counseled startups, taught classes for emerging businesses and mentored young professionals starting in their careers. So I have a little insight into what’s going on in our state, both good and bad.

First of all, I know and work with many, many men in our community who are smart, helpful, honest, decent and don’t abuse their positions of power. I also appreciate that some men are stepping up to say, “We have to do better.” But this must be clear: “We have to do better” is more than “we have to stop sexually harassing women.”

Not sexually harassing women is the minimum standard for acceptable behavior; the bar should be a lot higher.

How can you do better? Take a look at the makeup of your team. How many women hold positions of influence? It doesn’t count if the lead woman on your team is someone you describe as “the glue of the organization” or “the person we all rely on to keep us on track.” Hint: Everyone on your management team should have that attitude — if you are relying on one person to be “the mom,” you need to take a hard look at your organizational structure and business culture. Start promoting women into roles that use their talents and strengths. Pay attention to the ways their insight and ideas make a difference and encourage them. Don’t wait for them to lean in — make sure you reach out.

This is just good business. Companies with a higher percentage of women on their boards, for example, have a higher return on equity, researchers have found. And it’s good for your office environment too. When women are in positions of influence, it builds a culture of respect. Everyone on the team — men and women alike — can see that all genders are valued.

Start inviting more women to the table. The real table — the one where you talk about where the company is now and where it should go. The one where you decide which target markets to focus on. The one where you meet with VCs. You might be surprised at what these women have to say, because they’ve probably paid attention to things that aren’t on your radar. This is not an insult — it’s a reality that no one leader can see, hear or know everything. When you build a diverse team, you get a broader range of input. That is an advantage. Take it.

If you don’t know who to ask, give me a call. I can think of five Maine women off the top of my head who can give insight into any question or problem you might have, and can easily come up another dozen who specialize in particular areas. We are all around you.

Finally, for all of you guys who are starting up one of the entrepreneurial businesses in Maine, listen up: I am excited by what you are doing and proud of how you are building a community. I know cash is tight, and I know you are going a million miles a minute. But stop inviting young professionals, mostly women, to “help out” or “learn the ropes” or “do a few projects” in exchange for “making contacts” or “adding skills to your resume.” This is where the cycle of diminishment begins. Pay these young women a decent rate, listen to their ideas and start offering them a seat at the table. I promise you that it will pay off for your company.

This conversation is just getting started. Let’s talk.

Alison Harris is the founder of Harris Marketing Services, a Yarmouth-based business-to-business marketing firm specializing in content marketing.

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