#MeToo Response Requires a Reckoning With Truth
During a recent #HOWMatters conversation between activist, humanitarian and author Zainab Salbi and LRN founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Dov Seidman, the discussion turned to #MeToo.
Salbi, the head of Women to Women, an organization that lets women help women living in conflict zones, has spoken with men accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, and with executives unsure how to deal with #MeToo in their companies.
She advises men to “show up” and be authentic when addressing the truths to their actions, and not to worry about the outcome--lessons she said she was taught during her own inner journey to reconcile what we was seeking as an activist with what she was feeling and how she was behaving.
“First I projected it on the outside, which was really good. When I projected it on myself--am I doing this?--it became a tougher question because it's actually not easy to live the value you're advocating for,” said Salbi, author of the book, “Freedom is an Inside Job.”
Seidman said to confront those inner truths, one has to be rooted in a set of values. “What is the relationship between values and sorting out the inner journey so that you can have an outward one?” he asked.
Salbi talked to a lot of men who were called out for #MeToo behavior, and they send very politically correct apologies drafted by lawyers instead of addressing what happened honestly and from the heart.
"That doesn't feel authentic, so it doesn't settle," she said. "My advice for them is you have to show up authentically, tell your truth authentically. It doesn't matter if it's perfect or imperfect; what's important is that you're showing up and telling your truth.”
Seidman said #MeToo involves a reckoning, a redressing that is very much connected to truth.
“There's a lot of heightened emotion, outrage..and at the same time there has to be a moving forward through conversation,” he said.
The larger issue for men and women is to reflect on "where we have been complicit and...where we had been complacent," said Salbi. "Women and men, that honesty is not happening yet because everyone is afraid and defensive.”
Bringing this into the workplace requires discussions about power, opportunity, salary, career advancement, said Seidman. That means people need the freedom to be themselves, freedom to offer ideas during a meeting, while managers need to frame these talks to issues of respect and equality.
Salbi said many executives tell her they can't believe these things are happening, expressing support for women.
“Then when I asked them, ‘Did you talk to your staff?’ They [said] ‘No.’ I was like, ‘Well this is the first step. You have hundreds of employees," said Salbi. "Talk to them and say, ‘Are you facing this in our company?’ Most companies have not done that.”