State Sen. Loretta Weinberg said she was happy with the way the first open public forum for her working group on the toxic working conditions women face in Trenton went Tuesday in Fort Lee.
And while one person’s criticism of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) took many of the post-event headlines, Weinberg (D-Teaneck) felt the session was best viewed in its entirety.
“We had 11 women and one man come forth who were either sharing stories, sharing history or giving input about what we should be doing,” she said. “So, it was a good beginning.”
Weinberg said she hoped the open forums would be viewed — and will be viewed — as information-gathering sessions. Ones that take place without any debate, discussion or judgment.
“I was hoping that people would see they can trust us, and I think they did,” she said. “We did not engage, nor do we plan to engage anybody who comes before to share their stories. We’re not questioning, were not challenging or anything, so I think people can feel comfortable.”
Weinberg said she is hoping for similar outcomes at the next two scheduled meetings — March 4 in Gloucester County and March 16 in Middlesex County.
In addition, she said, the group is planning to hold one closed-door session, where people will be able to speak anonymously.
“We will have one very private meeting where people can really speak when they had anonymity and not worry about anybody knowing,” she said.
The issue of workplace culture for women came to light following a story by New Jersey Advance Media, which discussed the inappropriate behavior women faced in Trenton and during major networking events and conventions.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who has faced numerous questions about the treatment of women during his campaign and transition, has repeatedly said he wants women to feel safe in the workplace.
Earlier the week, Murphy announced the state will be reevaluating current workplace standards and trainings. The aim of this initiative, he said, is to ensure the broadest scope of workplace protections possible for the broadest number of state employees, with the end goal of ensuring inclusion and equity for all regardless of sex, race or gender identity.
“As I have said previously, I am committed to making real, positive and long-lasting changes to address the culture in Trenton, particularly around reports of the unacceptable treatment of women,” Murphy said in a release. “I have said time and time again that my goal is to make New Jersey stronger and fairer for everyone. Make no mistake: I believe that a more respectful culture for women in our state is a moral imperative. Getting to the root causes and dismantling a system that has existed for far too long won’t be easy, but today’s announcement is the most recent example of my administration taking meaningful steps in the right direction.”
Weinberg said she did not feel the governor was trying to overstep the role of her working group — which includes Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.
Weinberg, in fact, said the more news on this topic, the better.
“If it’s on the positive side, I’m happy about that,” she said.