I am thrilled to have had the chance to (virtually) sit down with the lawyer-turned-newscaster-turned-ground-breaking-author Adrienne Lawrence, author of the Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. The book was written by Adrienne in order to empower survivors, educate the masses, and eradicate the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace – Adrienne’s courage, drive, and resolve to share her own experience with her readers is, as a result, helping to restructure the way we think and talk about sexual harassment in the office.
We at #BlogHer are proud to consider Adrienne as part of our community of creators, influencers and entrepreneurs. I am truly grateful and humbled by the incredible strides she’s making in order to ensure everyone in every workplace has access to the information they need to feel safe, valued, and heard.
Welcome back, Adrienne! Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to since winning a VOTY at #BlogHer18 Creators Summit.
It’s been quite a ride over the past two years since being awarded the #BlogHer18 VOTY. Over that time, I’ve been leveraging my legal acumen as an on-air legal analyst, appearing everywhere from NPR to The Young Turks. I also serve as general counsel and director of outreach for BetterBrave, a non-profit geared toward giving employees tactical and practical advice on overcoming sexual harassment. And Penguin Random House gave me a book deal to write a first-of-its-kind game-changing business book titled Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment, which is getting love everywhere from the Harvard Business Review to the Hollywood scene.
You’ve described Staying in the Game as a playbook for the working woman navigating sexual harassment in the workspace – if there are three takeaways from your book that you want our audience to know, what might they be?
Here are my three key takeaways from Staying in the Game:
Be Prepared: Workplace sexual harassment is rarely ever a legal issue as less than 1% of situations ever end up in the legal arena. Sexual harassment is behavioral and its everywhere! More than 80% of women experience it. You must have a game plan.
Trust Your Instincts: If you’re uncomfortable, it’s not okay. Hardstop. Don’t let anyone gaslight you or try to diminish what you sense is off. Trust yourself.
Document, Document, Document: No one wants to be in a he-said/she-said situation. Unfortunately, employers and harassholes will protect themselves and deny events as quickly as they’ll retaliate. You must be ready.
You have led (and continue to lead!) a multi-faceted, evolving career. What advice do you have for anyone considering switching gears and pursuing something they’re passionate about over, say, a more traditional career path?
People often ask me how I managed to go from being a big-law attorney to an ESPN anchor to a freelancer to a workplace anti-sexual harassment author and advocate. It’s been a journey — sometimes seamless and other times heinous. The best advice I can give to someone looking to make their own way is to be honest with yourself about your passions and to unapologetically pursue them. Too often do we live for others and their expectations of us, as opposed to treating this life as our own. You are an evolving creature, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one career or path. Do what moves you. People will either be moved or move out of your way. Either way, you’ll be at peace with who you are and doing what you were meant to accomplish in this life. There’s nothing better than that.
What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to anyone dealing with nay-sayers or haters?
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone dealing with nay-sayers and haters is to stay focused. These people are distractions trying to throw you off your game. They may have the best of intentions, but sometimes it’ll be family, friends, and loved ones who tear you down or doubt you. Ignore it. It’s only noise.
Also, take heart in knowing that haters are a sign of progress. Seriously! Haters don’t come for nobodies; they target game-changers. So be flattered–you’re fabulous!
What do you think the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is? What can we all be doing better to help address that challenge?
Without question, workplace sexual harassment is the biggest challenge that faces women in the workplace. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what it really is and what it looks like.
Workplace sexual harassment is not just sexual advances and icky comments. It’s bullying and power plays directed at you because you’re a woman or that person thinks you’re not acting in a way that a woman should act. For example, a male coworker may call you sexist names or remove you from a project because he thinks “women are too sensitive for that type of work.” Regardless of whether it manifests in put downs or come-ons, workplace sexual harassment makes women play small or simply leave the job–assuming they’re not forced out in retaliation for speaking up. Ultimately, harassholes and the employers that uplift them effectively rob our society of the many significant professional contributions of women each and every day, harming women’s economic independence and opportunity to advance in society.
The best way to beat workplace sexual harassment is to invest in the info and intel you need, so you’re not caught off-guard when it goes down and you know how to effectively shut it down without compromise your career. Having a game plan is especially important during these times because jobs are scarce, people are insecure and power plays are rampant. As I say in my book, “We can all agree that no professional goes to college for five years just to do a cost-benefit analysis between giving up ass and staying employed.” So be in the know and be ready!
Besides Staying in the Game, what are your must-reads for anyone looking to educate themselves about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace?
That’s a great question… There’s no book out there like Staying in the Game! (I suspect that’s because women really didn’t speak up about workplace sexual harassment before #MeToo in fear of being blacklisted.)
When I was being bullied at my job and fielding sexual advances, I looked for advice knowing that sexual harassment is 99% a behavioral issue–not a legal one. In my search, all I found were memoirs and legal reference manuals; nothing with candid and practical insight on effective ways to identify and shut down this behavior, deal with the media and mental health, and all else that accompanies sexual harassment. Given that, I dove into the research, talked to experts and everyday people, and drew from our shared experiences to make Staying in the Game a one of a kind and first-of-its-kind business book.
My goal was to make it comprehensive yet accessible, and insightful yet entertaining. Based on the responses I’m getting from women and men, many of whom say they wish they’d had Staying in the Game when they started their careers, I’m confident my goal is met.
When you think of your career, is there a woman who stands out as someone who was instrumental in getting you where you are today?
My mother Mary Lawrence-Jones has been instrumental in my career and getting me here today. She’s an executive and full-on fabulous. Having her in my corner is everything.
We’re so grateful to Adrienne for taking the time to chat – and for all of the incredible work she’s doing to support and empower victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. This book is ground-breaking and an asset to anyone out there who has suffered through harassment of this kind. You can purchase your copy of Staying in the Game right here. In the meantime, be sure to follow Adrienne on everything – Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.