Earlier this week, Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two felony sex crimes following a trial in which six women testified that he sexually assaulted them. He now faces a prison sentence of up to 29 years. The verdict was a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement but has left many to ponder, where do we go from here?
That’s why Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski sat down with Tina Tchen, a lawyer and CEO of Time’s Up, a non-profit organization that aims to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
The verdict marks “a new era of justice for victims of sexual assault and victims of sexual harassment,” said Tchen, who previously served as an assistant to President Obama and was a former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. She added that it also helps hold powerful men accountable and encourages victims of sexual assault to break their silence.
Tchen said the verdict will also give women confidence in knowing that their stories will be believed. While Weinstein’s victims might have exchanged texts or emails with him and have continued to show up to work with him, it doesn’t undermine the fact that they were victims of sexual assault, Tchen added.
“He is going to jail for a long time, and it’s a signal to prosecutors that you can try these cases and win them,” Tchen said. “It’s a signal to survivors to say you will be believed if you can come forward.”
Brzezinski and Tchen agreed that there is still more work to be done.
Tchen believes in order to truly stop sexual harassment in the workplace, office culture needs to be holistically addressed. That means calling for more than anti-sexual harassment policies, like measures to help companies address existing power imbalances.
Steps like empowering women to succeed and feel safe at work and providing equal pay, paid leave and promotions can help create an inclusive, safe workplace, she suggested.
Furthermore, nondisclosure agreements (NDA) should not be used to silence sexual harassment claims, according to Tchen. While it’s fair to sign NDAs about confidential information about a company, victims should not be forced to sign NDAs that intend to keep silence within a company about others who are doing something wrong.
In many ways, it goes back to equal pay. “If you are not an equal, then you are already vulnerable,” Brzezinski said. “If your employer doesn’t value your worth enough to pay you equally, then they don’t respect you anyway,” Tchen added.
To that end, women must know their value and be able to communicate it effectively. “Do your research, find out what your value is and know the numbers going in,” Tchen said. She encouraged women to say, “I have the data. I know that if I was working at this company, I would get paid this much more.”
Furthermore, “act for yourself like you would act for your daughter,” Tchen advised. “We’re so used to advocating for others rather than ourselves. Imagine it’s your daughter that you’re advocating for, and that will give people a new perspective.”