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Sunday, December 10, 2017 1:00 am

City native's book on harassment timely

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The navy blue suit. Symbol of corporate America. Symbol of power. And sometimes, a reminder of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Fort Wayne native Jil Jordan Greene crafted a chapter titled “The Devil Wears Prada Navy Blue” in a book she co-authored designed to help others respond to situations involving sexual harassment and discrimination. “Champions Never Tell: Sisters Surviving Storms in the Workplace” and written with author Christy Rutherford, a certified executive leadership coach, was released Nov. 17.

The self-published book includes the stories of seven women. Each of them created characters – sometimes combining more than one individual into a single personality – to share their stories and yet protect the identities of others and the employers.

The book's release comes amid a national discussion about sexual misconduct that has engulfed high-profile men in the entertainment industry, the media and other workplaces, and led at least two congressmen – Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken – to step down last week. 

Morgan Stanley on Thursday fired former congressman Harold Ford Jr. as a managing director following allegations of misconduct, which he denied. Ford said in a tweet he has never “forcibly grabbed” anyone.

As stories in general of harassment unfolded, Time magazine last week named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. So the “Champions” book definitely is part of a bigger picture.

“The reason why we wrote the book is to make sure women understand, and not just women, but men, that you're not alone,” Greene said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We literally have a waiting list of people who want to be part of our next project.”

A Snider High School graduate with a master's degree in human resources administration, Greene has been a vice president of HR and worked with Fortune 500 companies. She now owns her own management consulting firm, The People Resource Group, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Greene frequently visits Fort Wayne, where her parents still live.

Greene became aware of Rutherford's story through a radio talk show she was hosting. She called Rutherford a couple days later to suggest a book. The two already knew or received referrals for the other women who contributed stories.

“Literally, in about 60 days we gathered a group of women, wrote and published a book, ironically around the same time as the #MeToo campaign,” Greene said. “We had no idea that the rest of the world would wake up and begin to recognize that women have been suffering for a long time.”

The first chapter in “Champions” is titled “Exposing the Invisible” and it says many workplace incidents “stay below the line of illegal harassment.” The second chapter is Greene's, followed by Rutherford's story in a chapter titled “Life Beat The Life Out of Me.”

The movie “The Devil Wears Prada” is one of Greene's favorites and how she came up with the title for her chapter in “Champions.” The movie's primary character was a complicated executive, played by Meryl Streep, who most viewed as mean. Greene empathizes a bit, pointing out the executive had numerous challenges. But Greene most related to another lead character, who assisted the executive until she became bold enough to chart her own path.

Response to the “Champions” book has been positive. 

A Facebook page tied to the book has generated numerous private inbox messages. “We're creating a community,” Greene said.

Sexual misconduct or any sort of harassment takes a toll. It causes anxiety and depression, adding to the stresses many people – women particularly – already struggle with, Greene said. She wants people to not just talk, but get the support they need for their challenges.

“We're saying tell your story, but get some help,” she said.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/.