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What the Harvey Weinstein Shit Storm Has to Teach Us About Humanity, Work & Power

If you haven’t heard about the Harvey Weinstein shit storm that has dominated the airwaves lately, the New York Times and The New Yorker wrote in-depth articles on the media mogul and his dealings with sexually harassing, assaulting and even raping women for the last three decades.  With a strong list of women coming forward, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, the moment to end Weinstein’s antics has finally come to fruition.

Unfortunately stories like these happen too often around men with incredible power, money and influence. Their reputation precedes them. Their egos are their enemies. And their choices speak loud and clear about who they really are under the masks of their brands.

As a woman who’s worked in tech, I see and have experienced harassment on a number of levels towards myself and other women from full-blown blatant acts to hundreds of micro aggressions. Whether it’s sexist comments, unwanted advances, or being punished more for our mistakes, no one can deny how difficult it is for women in the work force.

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It’s a problem we face as humanity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. Power is power and abuse is abuse.

I’ve been following the headlines about Weinstein – it’s hard not to when the whole goal around Les Naly is inspiring, motivating and empowering women at work. It’s also a deeply personal topic for me. I’d read a string of articles, sit at my desk, and ponder how this could have gone on for three whole decades with it being an “open secret.”  In Hollywood, where the majority of folks identify as Democrats or Liberals, and who so fiercely stand behind women’s rights, I was sadly disappointed to hear that people knew and yet no one did anything about it. On the flip side, when Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reily were exposed there was, and rightfully so, a whole “let’s hate on these men” bandwagon.  Those who live in glass houses, really shouldn’t throw stones.

The country is so torn apart by politics, but we have to come to a consensus that situations like these happen because of certain people in power, and political party has nothing to do with it. It’s a problem we face as humanity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. Power is power and abuse is abuse.

One of the things I really want to discuss are enablers. Who in the workforce enables these types of behaviors? It’s probably safe to say at this point that Harvey Weinstein’s entire company knew about the countless allegations, and even assisted in the deplorable acts – both men and women! Whether that was setting up sketchy meetings in hotels, joining dinner meetings for a brief second only to retreat out of sight and leaving actresses, the proverbial sheep, to the wolf of all wolfs in film and media.

One can only ask themselves – why?  Why do people aid and abet these situations? Does their conscious never come into play? Is Harvey Weinstein the only one to blame? Or do we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and face our fears with power as human beings?

Power is a mindset. Power is a mind game. Power is a shroud and can blind us into believing, and even scarier – doing – things we could never imagine.

This whole topic at its core is abuse of power. It reminds me so much of The Standford Prison Experiment.  There is a compelling documentary available on Netflix if you haven’t seen it. The cliff notes version is that students from Standford voluntarily entered an experiment done by Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University to study the role of power. Students were assigned either a “prisoner” or a “cop” and then put into a homemade life-like jail facility with roles to see what would ensue.

To say the research was a success is a harrowing example of what happens when society places roles on each of us on the grand stage of life. Students in the “cops” role consumed power while students in the “prisoner” role began to deteriorate into the powerless. Power is a mindset. Power is a mind game. Power is a shroud and can blind us into believing, and even scarier – doing – things we could never imagine.

I’m not making an excuse for Harvey Weinstein. What he did is disgusting and cruel to women. I’m also not making an excuse for the people that worked for him and aided and abetted in these actions. What they did is disgusting and cruel to women.  The perception of power, however, works in sly, sneaky ways that get into our psyche and forces us to bargain with ourselves for the most heinous acts as humans.

As humans, we find ways to endure horrible situations and discover resiliency in our strengths. So what is the silver lining for us to take away from the Weinstein story?  What can we learn from this situation with the glass half full?

The honest truth is, I’m not sure.

We now need to be brave enough to sit around the conference table and discuss company cultures, outline plans to improve and work harder at putting people first not just profit.

I do believe that we can be stronger by having more compassion and empathy for each other at home and work.  We can also support each other by talking and communicating our fears to one another.  We can champion each other by bringing these situations to light when the victims have lost hope.

We can question the actions of those in power and we can exercise our own power to stand up when things don’t feel right.  We can question our own perceptions of power and contemplate our actions.  We can be more self-aware and seek help if it’s us that has offended or mistreated someone.

Shining a light on Harvey Weinstein, his company, and those who knew but did nothing, is a step towards identifying what the underlying issues are at the intersection of humanity, work and power.

However, we need an even brighter light to be shone on the women who have come forward from the shadows.  Their courage, strength and vulnerability are what makes this all possible.  We now need to be brave enough to sit around the conference table and discuss company cultures, outline plans to improve and work harder at putting people first not just profit.

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