Preventing discrimination and injustice in the workplace can save employers money, time, and damage to their reputation from potential lawsuits, said powerhouse feminist attorney Gloria Allred to a full house of Berkeley Haas students, faculty, and staff last Wednesday.
“Look for opportunities to make a difference for fairness and for change. I’m not saying there’s only one style or way to achieve it—you have to make a judgment call about the best way for you,” Allred said, after a student asked how to make change from within the corporate world. “Telling the truth matters. Saying nothing will do nothing but maintain the status quo:”
Allred, who has spent four decades fighting—and often winning—high-profile battles against discrimination, spoke in conversation with Kellie McElhaney, director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership. The event, which followed a Tuesday screening of the new documentary Seeing Allred, was part of the center’s AmpEquity Series.
Allred said those who decide to take action should think it through beforehand and, potentially, consult with a lawyer if they are in a vulnerable position. But, “it’s really in the interest of the corporation to get to the truth,” Allred said.
Allred mixed blunt warnings with advice and inspiration, at times showing her anger and frustration. She called the Kavanaugh hearings an “exercise in raw power” that lacked due process for everyone involved, and she warned students to be prepared for whatever comes their way in the workplace.
“This is not a downer—this is just a dose of reality for you,” Allred said. “Sexual harassment is going to be one of the biggest barriers you will face in coming up that corporate ladder and staying there. Or sex discrimination, race discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s out there. Think in advance how you’re going to deal with it because you will deal with it in some way.”
Allred urged students to live their values, noting—as Gloria Steinem said—that you can tell your values by your checkbook stubs.
“Think about your time as an investment. People are often more protective of their money than their time. You can earn more money, but you can’t earn more time,” she said.
“Decide what your priorities are. Everybody can make a difference in some way, usually more than one way,” she said. “Follow your heart. Everyone can make a difference.”
Watch Allred’s full talk: