Careful, Your World is Flooding: An Entrepreneurial Response to #MeToo

Over the last week, many Jewish entrepreneurs have been chiming in to the viral #MeToo campaign on social media. Here at Jewcer, we think that it is incredibly important to call attention to this serious issue that many women face in their workplace, community, social lives, and in public. So we turned to one of our top contributors, Devon Spier, to provide us with a Jewish entrepreneurial perspective on the ways in which we can participate in the #MeToo campaign and create real change.

 

If we consider last week’s Torah portion and Noah’s righteous compliance with G-d’s every instruction in building an ark to save humanity, we are confronted by the uncomfortable truth that, so often, we are acting without thinking in a sort of entrepreneurial automatism. We build for good, but we do not evaluate if our plans reflect the good we aspire to create.

We see this often in our society, most recently in the chorus of male-identified entrepreneurs who are now affirming #MeToo. Not because they share these experiences, but because they have seen the aftermath. And they want everyone to know they see it, too. But the hard truth is…many folks have not been bystanders, but rather, well, non-standers.

Consider a lesson framed through the lens of last week’s Torah portion: The problem with pointing to a flood after the act is that it draws attention away from the fact that your own ark has been a buffering. And it is precisely your shielding that masked the flood in the first place. Wherever you stand, or whomever you are, it is time for entrepreneurs who say that they value women to put their words to action. And that happens when we climb out of the inside of the ark and step into women’s worlds. Yes, women have been sinking. And men? It’s on you to trouble the water and, at last, pull us from the silencing deep.

Lech Lecha, right? “Go Forth.” Those are the words of this week’s upcoming parsha, in which Abraham, the first Jew, enters into a contract with G-d and humanity. These words also carry a clear lesson for us: #MeToo must translate to #WeToo in order for businesses and communities to create a world that not only mitigates disasters but actively prevents them and makes the planet safe for all women.

And this begins with consent. Some of us might be used to hearing the word consent when referring to sexual activity, but it’s actually broader than that: the word consent refers to a practice of seeking people’s permission before proceeding with a particular behaviour or course of action. And it is also part of a larger belief that people have the right to choose what they experience or don’t.

In this spirit, here are some accountability questions to get you started on making a covenant or brit with the women you work with.

Self-evaluate with whom and how you make decisions as an entrepreneur. In other words, measure whom you include and exclude as part of your decision-making.

Questions to ask yourself:

    • When I make decisions about my venture, do I always go with my preferred course of action?
    • Do I make up my mind and then ask for people’s input or do I just make decisions on my own?
    • Do I ask a select group of people for answers all the time? Do I go with the answers I am looking for or the loudest voices in the room?
Challenge:

Know that unilateral decision-making is the birthplace for violence against women. Work to change your propensity for making decisions on your own by changing how you manage your work. Find ways to center conversations on women’s perspectives, thoughts, and feelings, by specifically asking of these individuals to not only offer input but to take the lead on key projects and initiatives and, better yet, letting them define the kinds of strategic directions or positions your business or community takes.

Look for the unwritten rules, norms and values that guide your office or community culture, specifically paying attention to how other men interact with the women they work with.

Questions to ask yourself:

    • At a basic level, do the men in my office ask a woman’s consent before they behave a certain way, propose an idea, or go with a course of action that impacts the business or community?
    • During the discussion and planning process, do I observe mostly women or men’s voices guiding the discussion? Do the men in my office make most of the final calls when it comes to project management?
    • Are decisions made quickly, with little time for continuous evaluation, consensus and appraisal? Are there ways that certain steps in the decision-making process are taken for granted without taking time to assess or reflect on how they impact women-identified leaders in the groups?
Challenge:

Do the work to read about consent, office and business management, as well as gender dynamics in the workplace. Introduce and stress the language and practice of consent, processing and checking-in. Ask the women in the office how they feel in their interactions during project work with their male colleagues, in particular, about how and whom make decisions and if the process makes them feel comfortable or not on an emotional level. Act on their direct input to create office guidelines on consent that make the work environment safer and more women-informed.

Bonus Challenge:

Jewish tradition states that G-d hears the cries of the anguished. To hear those cries, you need to be accountable, which means working to educate yourself and other masculine-identified staff on the issues that are facing all women. It means that rather than giving your input or your perspective on how these women envision the right course of action, you continuously quote, point to, emphasize, and affirm their words and reflections. And, most importantly, it means that you take the ownership to grow, to change, and to be responsive to all the women you work with, including the most vulnerable. This means that your learning is in your hands and that you model this commitment to others and regularly check-in with women in your business or community on how you are living up to what they have asked of you.

Jewcer fam, we’d love to hear from you: How can entrepreneurs and Jewcer best support all women?

 

Devon Spier
Devon Spier is a rabbinical student and spiritual entrepreneur. Over the last decade, she has made her home in the small suburban shtetl of Kitchener-Waterloo, where she supports the leadership of Jewish young professionals, children, new mums and donors so that they may lead in innovative ways that raise up the institutions to which they belong.