Why women are leaving the labor market: Natalie Portman's speech at the Power of Women event
Why women are leaving the labor market: Natalie Portman's speech at the Power of Women event

The actress shared her thoughts on workplace safety and urged to heed the message of the mammary glands.

Why women are leaving the labor market: Natalie Portman's speech at the Power of Women event
Why women are leaving the labor market: Natalie Portman's speech at the Power of Women event

In October, the annual Power of Women ceremony was hosted by Variety. The event presents awards to women working in Hollywood and actively involved in charity work. The tenth anniversary ceremony took place this year. It featured Emma Gonzalez, who actively advocates for arms control in the United States, actresses Tiffany Haddish, Regina King, Lina Waite and Natalie Portman.

In her acceptance speech, Portman spoke about the work of the Time's Up Foundation, which provides legal protection for those who have faced harassment or violence in the workplace. She spoke about the scandal around producer Harvey Weinstein, explained the difference between the number of graduates and the number of women who then remain in the labor market. And in the end, she called on colleagues in the film industry to support each other and not release films containing violence against women for at least one year.

Portman posted this speech on Medium and we have translated it.

We had an incredible week at Time's Up. We welcomed our first President and CEO, Lisa Borders, who previously led the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is a brilliant, responsive leader with a strategic approach and extensive experience in business, civic activism and government. We are happy that now Lisa will lead our work.

I came to Time's Up's first meeting almost exactly a year ago after Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, and Ronan Farrow's deafening reporting on Harvey Weinstein. I had already heard the stories and was horrified to learn how far his outrages extended. Before, I never thought about how many women survived from our industry due to his vengeful actions.

Articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker, as you know, revealed the details of how he denigrated the women he attacked: he told the directors that these actresses were difficult to work with or that they were crazy, advised them not to cooperate with them. Weinstein's lawyer David Boies hired people to track whoever reported the attacks. They tried to portray them as whores, their every step was watched. Weinstein did this, like many other sex extortionists and rapists, to deprive his victims of the power.

Women in the Labor Market: Speech by Natalie Portman
Women in the Labor Market: Speech by Natalie Portman

After all, if they have fewer job offers, then less money, which means less power. Gradually, they will no longer be trusted, their reputation will suffer, which again means that they will have less opportunity to get him in trouble for his crimes.

And this strategy works! Weinstein is still at large, and New York District Attorney Cy Vance dismissed one of the cases against him yesterday. Harvey Weinstein, whose name has become synonymous with serial rapist, may never legally pay for his actions, because our legal system and our culture protect the perpetrators of sexual harassment, not their victims.

As Jody Cantor pointed out, Weinstein's actions affected a generation of actresses who survived the movies and were deprived of decades of jobs and, consequently, wages. How many more women in our industry and elsewhere have been silenced in this way?

I have always wondered why there is still such an unequal distribution of men and women in all spheres of activity, and especially in leadership positions. After all, universities deliberately try to recruit the same number of students of both sexes.

I wondered why law schools graduate 50/50, but only 20% of women become equal partners in law firms. At the same starting ratio, business school graduates represent only 10.6% on boards of directors and 4.8% among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Film departments also have 50% women, but only 11% of the 250 best films in the past year were made women.

There is an often cited theory that women quit their jobs because of motherhood, or that professional activities are not conducive to raising children.

I believed in her myself. But I always found it suspicious to refer to it. Imagine: a woman spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal education, a lot of time and effort to study, and then a lot of nerves to gain access to legal practice. And suddenly, after several years in a reputable firm, he leaves his favorite job. A job that brings good income and in which she has invested so much. And she does this only because she never thought about the possible care of children. Sounds obscure, but I fell for it. I don't know why myself. I guess I'm a sheep.

It's time to debunk this myth. First, there are too many women who do not have children at all until they decide on them or whose children have already grown up, to cite motherhood as the reason for their absence from leadership positions.

Secondly, there are many professions that can be considered incompatible with motherhood, but which are almost entirely occupied by women. For example, a gynecologist. It is one of the most time consuming and emotionally stressful branches of medicine. Doctors here must always be ready for the challenge. However, today almost all gynecologists are women. And many of them have children. So why is it so often said that women cannot work hard work and be mothers at the same time?

There is a uniquely high demand for women in gynecology. Patients want to be treated by women, and this affects recruitment. In addition, gynecologists primarily work with women. Therefore, it can be assumed that the level of harassment and violence at work in this area is very low. A lesson can be learned from this story: when the demand for women in the profession increases, as well as the physical and emotional safety in the workplace, women tend to this area and take on emotionally and intellectually stressful work.

Women in the Labor Market: Power of Women Ceremony
Women in the Labor Market: Power of Women Ceremony

In the film industry, they also say that there are so few women directors, cameramen, stunt directors and almost all other professions, because such a life is incompatible with family life. But what about make-up and costume designers? These specialists are almost always women. And they somehow manage to work in the film industry and take care of their families, if any.

A woman is much more likely to stay at work for her children than to leave because of them.

Think of women who work multiple jobs to support their families. So please, let's stop saying that they quit their jobs because of motherhood. This is not true.

Of course, many women like to devote all their time to children, and this is a wonderful, admirable choice. But not everyone does it. Yes, in all areas, workplace conditions can be significantly improved to help working parents - both fathers and mothers. Give longer leave for family reasons. Provide a place at work where you can leave a small child. Introduce an adequate work schedule so that people can live their lives after a hard day. However, the same gynecologists, for example, do not have an extended maternity leave and do not have a special kindergarten. Nevertheless, almost all doctors in this specialty are women. So this is not the reason why they leave the labor market.

Let's be honest. The reason why there are so few women in leadership positions in almost all spheres is discrimination.

Fewer women are hired and promoted less often. Even when they get a job, they often face harassment and attacks, they are paid less than their male colleagues. All this forces women to look for safer options and other ways to feel their value.

Many women experience even more pressure and discrimination on several grounds at the same time. For example, because of sexual orientation, race, age, class, religion, physical ability. And if they try to communicate it, they often incur even more problems. Their reputation is being destroyed, which jeopardizes their future job opportunities.

Therefore, we at Time's Up first of all created the Legal Defense Fund together with the National Women’s Law Center. Because women need to provide food for their families. To do this, they must be able to work in a safe, equitable and non-degrading environment.

Women in the Labor Market: Women's March
Women in the Labor Market: Women's March

In its first year of operation, our foundation has helped over 3,500 people - from McDonalds employees, prison guards and the military, to women in the film industry facing gender-based harassment, discrimination, coercion and violence. Most recently, our attorneys took up Melanie Kohler's case against director Brett Ratner and won. The defendant's lawyer tried to use his enormous financial resources to buy her silence. But Melanie did not give up her words. And he withdrew his lawsuit with charges of defamation, as he realized that she could not be intimidated just because he had hundreds of millions of dollars, and she did not.

At Time's Up, we want all people - men, women, those who do not identify themselves to be of any gender - to take part in the change and make the hiring process more honest, the salary is equal, and the jobs are safe.

We now have chapters in technology, finance, advertising, journalism, medicine, and sister organizations among restaurant workers, domestic workers and farm workers. We are thousands of women in all spheres, united to make the same demands on the whole world.

What exactly can you do?

  1. Help financially. Donate money to a legal aid organization.
  2. Get together. Arrange meetings with other women and discuss what you want to change. This is the main condition that helps to do something.
  3. Listen. If in any group that you belong to, everyone looks the same as you, change that. Listen to the stories of women with different experiences: it's really sobering.
  4. Demand. You all have the opportunity to agree on the same payment. And you should be embarrassed if everyone looks like you at work. Try to include people of different races, ages, gender, orientation and physical abilities among you.
  5. Gossip correctly. Put an end to the popular belief that women are necessarily quirky or complex. If a man says that a woman is crazy or that it is difficult to work with her, ask what he did wrong to her. Because with such a phrase he is trying to undermine her reputation. Hire those whose careers have been destroyed out of revenge.
  6. Feel free to touch on this topic. People who abuse their power will not change out of the kindness of their soul. They have their own interests, and they will change their behavior only if they are in danger of losing what is important to them.
  7. Tell a new story. Why not take a break and be cruel to women for a year? What if, during this time, it was possible to rid the entertainment content produced of the depictions of the rape and murder of women? Don't harm them in projects you write, produce, film or advertise, and we'll see where that goes.

I want to end this talk with a reminder that our class of animals, mammals, is named after women. Specifically, in honor of our mammary glands. Yes, the most striking thing about all animals of this class is the chest. We know that. Men know this. Young children know this for sure. Interestingly, at the first Time’s Up meeting, I was breastfeeding my daughter, and I was not only allowed to do this, but was also accepted with approval and admiration. All in all, our breasts are amazing. And the mammary glands have their own message.

Many men act like we are living in a zero-sum game. As if if women get the respect, opportunity and appreciation they deserve, men will lose theirs.

But we know the message of the mammary glands: the more milk you give, the more you produce. The more love you give, the more you love. The same can be said for fire. When you light someone's torch with your own, it doesn't go out. You just spread light and warmth.

Therefore, my last request to all: spread the fire. Light the torches of other women and create more warmth and light for all of us. Do you promise this with me?

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