October 30, 2017

Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker wrote: A genuine challenge to the hierarchy of power will have to come from those who have it.

As I consider that recent sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein simmered for decades, I am confronted by the belief that had someone with nothing to lose – someone in a position of power – spoken up, this may have ended long ago with far fewer victims.

Let’s be clear – Weinstein’s actions were not just about sex, and neither were those by others in the workplace who have been similarly accused. Harassment and assault are about wielding power. It takes other people in positions of leadership, authority and power to rapidly alter a culture of unwanted advances and threats of recrimination.

In our organizations, what are we doing to encourage people to stand up and speak out if they see something inappropriate? As individuals, if we sit in a place of comfort, do we have the courage to stand up for those in fear when people who represent power and profit act very badly?

The message, “if you see something, say something” is not only a warning about a piece of luggage sitting alone in an airport. It is a call to ignite our empathy for our fellow humans. It is a rally for a commitment to better workplaces.