Have you heard of Ronan Farrow?
He isn't a household name, but he just won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and he's the reporter who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in The New Yorker. Through meticulous conversations with brave women, he constructed a profile of a man who abused his position of power and authority. Life hasn't been the same since we read those #MeToo stories last October.
Farrow appeared on stage earlier this month at WorkHuman to talk about workplace harassment with Ashley Judd, Tarana Burke, and Adam Grant. It would have been easy for him to speak non-stop about Weinstein. Instead, he deferred to Tarana Burke and Ashley Judd, who told their harrowing first-person stories of the #MeToo movement.
#MeToo and WorkHuman
Ashley Judd is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley and spoke about institutional sexism and entrenched biases in the workforce. Her advice for HR departments is simple but not easy: implement more anonymous surveys, embrace the victim, and show institutional courage.
Tarana Burke gave a masterclass in authenticity and radical candor. She has no time for systems that don't protect minority women, the disabled, or members of the LGBT community. Burke believes HR departments are complicit in the #MeToo debacle and asked the audience to value their HR systems as much as they value the men in leadership roles at their companies.
Ronan Farrow was different. When asked a question by moderator Adam Grant, Farrow was concise and respectful. The #MeToo story isn't a sensational Hollywood narrative. In his mind, it is a public safety issue. He couldn't sleep at night if he didn't honor the stories of his sources and publish the truth.
Farrow said, "This isn’t about one person, it’s about a labyrinth of systems that men can use to silence voices that speak out against them. It's about powerful people who commandeer systems that HR is entrusted to enforce."
"This isn't about one person, it's about a labyrinth of systems that men can use to silence voices that speak out against them."
HR’s Role in Ending #MeToo
From his reporting, Farrow sees two crucial discussions that need to take place in the workforce: one is about individual accountability, and the other is about the systems in place that protect influential men at the expense of their victims. Weinstein is responsible for his behaviors, but there's an unnecessary maze of complexity that victims must navigate to find justice. Both issues require more examination.
Listening to Ronan Farrow made me think there is no going back. Now that we know how powerful people behave when they think they can get away with it, we have no excuse. As HR professionals, we must be vigilant and observant. And, furthermore, we must be brave.
More accurately, you must be brave.
How to Be Brave
It’s easy to say, “If you see something, say something.” But it’s never been more important to embody that truism. If someone comes to you with a workplace harassment complaint, act on it. There's no excuse for learned helplessness. If you can't influence change, or if your leaders don't listen to you, it's time to escalate your concerns or increase your influence quotient. Still struggling? Maybe it's time to get a new job.
"If you can't influence change, or if your leaders don't listen to you, it's time to escalate your concerns or increase your influence quotient."
Ronan Farrow was compelled to investigate and report on the Weinstein story because it kept him up at night. He heard horrible stories from victims and couldn't rest until he did his best to break the story. Sometimes you have to persevere and fight the good fight, even if you're unsure how it will end for you.
That's not just true of journalists. In the age of #MeToo, it's now true of HR.
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