A conversation with filmmaker Tricia Brouk and thought-leader Jenn Lederer on the eve of the premiere of their documentary about women empowering other women to accomplish their dreams.
Jenn (left) and Tricia (right) say they aren’t sure what’s possible and sometimes, if they give it over, then the “what’s possible” becomes possible.
Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
Tricia: Talk to me about that moment that you agreed to let me shoot a doc about you.
Jenn: The moment ... It's funny. The moment I agreed for you to shoot a doc happened once I walked out of the bar. After we had spent the time together, and I really learned what it felt like to be held by you, to be inside of your space, even though it was super casual, and we were at a bar, and it was like two girlfriends hanging out, talking about a possibility. I really felt your leadership. When I left the bar and started walking back to the subway, I felt so much excitement and so much fear. I knew that if I was going to do this, I would need to hand the reins over to you.
Tricia: And what gave you permission to even consider doing that?
Jenn: Well, I think the fact that you and I had collaborated in little, kind of bite-sized collaborations, up to that point. I had seen you in motion but, what really allowed me to trust you was that feeling I had when we were sitting there together and I said, "This woman gets it." Beyond me, there was already a sense of, "I think there's something bigger here that maybe she is tuned into and I'm not." But, it's almost like I relinquished it over from myself, and I don't know if it was even given to you. It was just given up from me, which felt really good to finally be in a space where someone, without saying it, told me, "You know, you can put this down. You could not carry this on your own. What might that feel like?"
Tricia: Do you think it's important, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, as women who are generally in charge of everything, do you think it's important to acknowledge that sometimes it's important to give over, or to let go, or to put it down and let somebody else carry it?
Jenn: It is non-negotiable. We aren't the be all end all of what we can create in this world because no matter how big our thoughts are, no matter how big my vision is, I don't have access to what is truly possible.
The only way I get access to what is truly possible is when I admit I can't do this alone.
Tricia: Let me take you back to September 26. You sent me an email, and this is when you wanted to share a song that inspired you that day, “The Weight of it All” by Kaleigh Baker, a song we ended up using in Just Enough. And your email says, "It came blaring through my speakers as I was writing my morning pages and exploring what's possible."
We aren't sure what's possible and sometimes, if we give it over, then the “what's possible” becomes possible.
Jenn: And it becomes a collaboration with that intangible source that we all come in contact with from time to time, and sometimes we say, "Oh that was a coincidence. Oh, that was a one-time thing. Oh, that's not really who I am. That's not the norm." But the truth is, every time I give up my control and get curious about that question, what is possible here?, I'm blown away. Sometimes, being blown away, starts with stripping away. That's when it gets really scary because, in order for the new, big, and huge possibilities to come in, somethings got to give. That's where you, Tricia, and your safety, and how much I trusted you, helped me to let go.
Tricia: Yeah. It's difficult to acknowledge all the different ways of being. I think that when you can become comfortable with all the versions of yourself, and trust that that makes you up as a whole, then I think you can drop in and ground into the who you are, and into the what's possible.
Let’s jump ahead a little bit to September 30th.
You had a lot of fear around the project and you were trying to talk yourself out of it while talking yourself into it. So, what was it for you Jenn, that turned from excitement into panic and fear, and almost paralysis?
Jenn: The thing that brought me to the excitement is the same exact thing that brought me to the paralysis, which is the “What is possible?”, question. The truth is when I let, my imagination grab hold of something that isn't complete yet, I'm really good at bracing myself for the worst case scenario. We'll get only so close to what you want. Then, it will implode
Every cell of my body was saying “Yes! Do this!” but, my mind, the proof of past experiences, started to poison all of the excitement of the possibility and flipped it on it’s ear, and said, "But, look at all this stuff that could happen.
Look at how people might judge you. Look at how the story might be told differently than what you want. Look at how ... What are you going to look like on camera, Jenn? Are you in shape the way you want to be? What's your skin going to be like that week? All of the things that started to convince me, "Maybe not right now. You know what? Maybe we should just keep talking about this and really hammer it out." And, that is normally when I back out of big, exciting projects like this one.
Tricia: So, what changed your mind?
Jenn: When I sat with it I couldn't deny the truth. I've gotten very good at filtering through my fears and finding the nugget of truth. The truth was, it was time. The truth was, all of the other fears and, misconceptions, and past experiences were the lies. So, in that response to you when I declared “Yes!”, it was not so much me declaring yes to the project, as it was me declaring yes to a new way of moving toward my dream. Where the fears and the old way, the old way of thinking was no longer going to be mine.
"The truth was, it was time. The truth was, all of the other fears and, misconceptions, and past experiences were the lies." Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
"When you get clear about the bigger why, and it’s the exact sensation I talked about when I realized it was a yes for you and I, of tapping into this is bigger than me." Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
Tricia: How do we own our power and walk through the world fully lit up?
Jenn: Yeah. Well, the first step is always permission and curiosity. Permission to admit that you do have power, permission to know that it's already inside of you. Then, get comfortable with the practice of seeking people, places, and experiences that mirror that permission back to you. Where you walk in and they say, "We see you. We see your power. You are powerful and, come in here and practice being that power."
Tricia: I think also when you understand that you've got power and intelligence and success, and strength, and all these things that many people, many women, are afraid to own, it's also important to own mistakes, fuck-ups, things that aren't going perfectly. It's about not worrying whether somebody is going to judge you, not worrying about whether or not you're going to fail. Because yes, everyone else in the world is going to judge you. I say this all the time, stop judging yourself, let everybody else do it.
"It’s difficult to acknowledge all the different ways of being. I think that when you can become comfortable with all the versions of yourself, and trust that that makes you up as a whole, then I think you can drop in and ground into the who you are, and into the what’s possible." Photo Courtesy of John DeMato
Jenn: When you get clear about the bigger why, and it's the exact sensation I talked about when I realized it was a yes for you and I, of tapping into this is bigger than me. This message chose my voice, my timing, my experience, to come through.
So, if we can realize that it's not as personal as our ego wants to make it out to be, that can give you permission to relax and trust. Knowing that bigger purpose and knowing that you are a part of something bigger takes the pressure off of your shoulders and you're no longer proving it. You are a part of it.
Tricia: What do you think being just enough has to do with transformation?
Jenn: It has everything to do with transformation because being just enough is, to me, knowing that there is no finish line. You never actually get there. You never actually get to the point where you say, "Aha! I've done it. I have no more transformation to be had. No more lessons to learn." As long as I am on this earth, the concept of being just enough means that, in the same breath, I can be a hot mess and the world's biggest inspiration.
Tricia: I feel like we are in the business of helping other people transform. If Just Enough, the doc, can give people the permission the integrate, then we've done our job.
Jenn: Yeah. And from what I've seen, that's what it's doing.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.