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The Harvey Weinstein Trial Begins Today

January 6, 2020, 8:17 PM UTC

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Happy New Year! We’re facing potential war, a climate emergency, and the first trial of the decade. So, <clasps hands> let’s dig in.

I prepared for the Harvey Weinstein criminal trial, which starts today, by doing a good, old-fashioned journalistic deep dive. There’s a lot to process: He stands accused of raping one woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on another woman in 2006, charges that could lead to serious prison time. By lunchtime on the East Coast, prosecutors in Los Angeles had charged him with rape and other crimes against two additional women, and more charges are likely, as his record of misdeeds is staggering. The Cut has compiled a list of 100 allegations of harassment or assault during the mogul’s lengthy tenure. He has denied all criminal wrongdoing.

I started with Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, a book based on his reporting for The New Yorker, and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s She Said, based on their reporting for the New York Times. I know these are books about the reporting process, but they are not inside baseball. They are about how power—and specifically power in media—works, and they are chilling, necessary reads.

I also went to the theater to watch Bombshell, a film about the downfall of Fox News honcho Roger Ailes, led by Gretchen Carlson. I even subscribed to Apple TV+ specifically to watch The Morning Show. The series, whose executive producers included Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, brilliantly depicts the complex way powerful men are allowed to roam free as affable predators, aided and abetted by others.

The combination of all of this left me shaken, gutted, and profoundly certain: The system is badly broken, and by design.

When I talk about my own experiences, I typically mention just one because it has such a tragic-comic ending. I was assaulted by my boss, the CEO of an international organization, in the back of a taxi after a work event. He was the second to last to be dropped and became enraged when I wouldn’t go up to his apartment. I don’t know how long it took me to get him out of the cab, but the cabbie left the meter on. The next day, I went to the office, and here’s the fun part: I expensed my own assault and… just went back to work.

Hey, I needed that job. I knew who his friends were. I knew his influence and understood the threat. I knew how the world worked, even if I didn’t know it.

Research shows that nearly 40% of women and 14% of men have said they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, yet the vast majority will never file either a legal or internal complaint. Women in the military. Women in the hospitality or retail industries. Women in manufacturing. Hell, former CBS chief Les Moonves even assaulted his own doctor.

As we head back to work today, it’s a safe assumption that we all will be side by side (or Slack by Skype by Hangout) with someone who has been harassed or assaulted in the workplace at some point, and probably didn’t find any sort of relief or safe haven. My guess is that the Weinstein trial will be an uncomfortable reminder of how the world has always worked.

By design.

So, this is an excellent time for companies to take a culture gut-check, and make sure they’re clear on issues of harassment, equity, and workplace respect.

It’s important for leadership to be present if employees are upset; thoughtfully designed surveys can help you dig beneath the surface. (We’ve covered these topics in the past.) Make sure everyone knows about safety-specific resources like reporting hotlines or counseling services, and that there are no repercussions for using them. (Ask your ERGs and unions for help reaching their constituents.) 

Make sure frontline leaders know when, how, and if to check-in with anyone who may be struggling with the news or having trouble in their interactions at work. (If their upper-level supervisors don’t know how to advise them, it’s a leadership blind spot.)

And, in particular, make sure male leaders have the support they need to understand what constitutes good boundaries—and don’t allow them to stop coaching, including, or developing women on their teams. Professional dinners are fine. Hiding behind trumpedup fears of hysterical backlash is not. Hold everyone accountable, publicly.

In a beautifully timed move, Time’s Up has published an entertainment-industry guide that explains respectful best practices during auditions and intimate scenes, and how to report bad behavior.

“The entertainment industry is not a typical workplace, so figuring out your rights and options around workplace harassment, discrimination and misconduct can be confusing,” said actor and activist Alyssa Milano in a statement.

But few industries are typical anymore.

Do the women who work in your corporate catering facilities know their rights? In your manufacturing plants? In your emergency rooms? In your design and research groups? In your high potential pools? In your podcast and video sessions? At corporate conferences? Among your academic advisees? Are they safe? Would they tell you? Are you sure?

These are the actual stakes in the Weinstein trial. It’s not about Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or Les Moonves or Roger Ailes or what their accusers did, thought, or wore, but about the society that continues to make harassment acceptable by protecting and overvaluing the men who do bad things. A society who would elect a person with credible accusations of misogyny, racism, and sexual assault—who bragged about inappropriate behavior on tape—to the highest office in the land with barely a shrug.

I recommend that senior leaders take the worst-case scenario approach and assume that the women walking or dialing into work today aren’t sure of their rights, or that they’re safe, or that you care. Extend that all the way to its painful conclusion that they believe you know how the world has always worked, even if you don’t know it. I think it’s now safe to assume that they don’t trust you.

So, what are you going to do to earn their trust?*

(*Feel free to forward this to your CEO.)

Ellen McGirt
@ellmcgirt
Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com

On Point

Iranians are being stopped at the U.S. Border In the aftermath of President Trump’s order of an air strike killing Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful generals, Iranian-American travelers are being detained at the U.S. border, reports Politico. “We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance,” said the executive director of the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in a statement. CAIR says more than 60 people of Iranian descent, including U.S. citizens had been detained and questioned.
Politico

The mixed bag of the Golden Globes The awards ceremony offered something for everyone to like or hate, Ricky Gervais was brutal (and called The Hollywood Foreign Press “racist”), female directors were largely snubbed, Fleabag fans were thrilled, as were fans of Succession, 1917, and Parasite. (Old-fashioned films also saw a resurgence, a nailbiter for Netflix, says Fortune’s Stacy Wilson Hunt.) Both Ellen DeGeneres, who won the Carol Burnett Award, and Kate McKinnon, who introduced her, were resplendent in their remarks.Best Actress in a Limited Series winner Michelle Williams made an eloquent case for reproductive health and abortion rights in hers. She’d tried her best to live a life of her own making, she said, “And I wouldn't have been able to do this without employing a woman's right to choose, to choose when to have my children and with whom.”
Mashable

The first municipality in Japan adopts a rule protecting LGBTQ rights to self-expression It’s a big victory for inclusion advocates in Japan; Minato Ward in Tokyo is said to be set to revise its gender equality legislation to be even more accommodating. “The ward’s plan would mean changing, among other regulations, school uniform rules that require boys to wear pants and girls skirts so that students can choose the type of clothing they wear,” reports Japan Times. The ordinance change also protects the use of makeup, street clothes, and work uniforms by any gender. Experts expect the change will eventually include a mechanism to recognize LGBTQ couples with the same status as married heterosexual couples, mirroring changes made by other municipalities.
Japan Times

Terry Gilliam is exhausted, y’all The film director and former Monty Python member was surprised to learn that his particular brand of irreverent humor is now missing the mark. In an interview with The Independent, the self-branded “offensive” man delivered on his promise by throwing a bunch of rhetorical grenades. “There’s no room for modern masculinity, I’m told,” says Gilliam. “‘The male gaze is over,’” he said, with air quotes. On the age of Weinstein, “Yeah, I said #MeToo is a witch hunt,” he says. “I don’t understand why people behave as if this hasn’t been going on as long as there’ve been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.” He also says he doesn’t understand why people get mad when he identifies as a Black lesbian in transition.
The Independent

On Background

Uh oh, Uber academic research may be biased The ride-sharing company has been cooperating with academic researchers since 2015, and has contributed economic data to at least 10 major university papers. But the company is now facing allegations that “selective data sharing” and “conflicts of interest” could be skewing research outcomes to indicate the company’s business model is more sound that it really is. It’s just hard to know. In a recent critique, Hubert Horan, an independent transportation economist, says that the papers are based on inaccessible “proprietary data” and perform “non-replicable analysis.” Another says that Uber only shares data with researchers they believe are “congenial” to their business.
Times Higher Education

The impact of ignoring Black people in the opioid epidemic Opioid-related overdoses increased more rapidly in white populations than Black ones in the U.S. in the early days of the epidemic, making it appear to be a white-centric phenomenon. After researchers suspected that doctors were simply less likely to subscribe pain meds to Black patients in a persistently wrong-headed belief that they feel less pain, an idea that the bias was a good thing took hold. "Any notion that the failure to treat black patients’ pain has protected them from opioid misuse has dangerous implications for the growing number of black Americans who do struggle with opioid use disorder,” says Dr. Utsha Khatri, Shoshana Aronowitz a doctorally trained nurse, and Eugenia South, an assistant professor of emergency medicine in this opinion piece. Opioid use disorder is rising among Black populations—and bias will doom them to worse outcomes.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Kids in the U.S. are 70% more likely to die before adulthood than kids in other wealthy countries The research, published in the journal Health Affairs, finds that the U.S. lags behind other wealthy, democratic countries on a variety of factors, leading to increasingly poor outcomes for kids. “In all the wealthy, democratic countries we studied, children are dying less often than they were 50 years ago,” said the study’s lead author. “But we found that children are dying more often in the United States than in any similar country.” Since 1961, that accounts to roughly 600,000 deaths that wouldn’t have occurred if the children had been born and raised elsewhere.
Vox

Quote

“The past two years have been grueling and have presented me with a great opportunity for self-reflection. I realize now that I was consumed with my work, my company and my drive for success. This caused me to neglect my family, my relationships and to lash out at the people around me. I have been in rehab since October 2017, and have been involved in a 12-step program and meditation. I have learned to give up my need for control.”

Harvey Weinstein