Behind the Scenes of BetterBrave’s Community Podcast
From ‘Podcast?’ to ‘Podcast!’ in 90 days (or somewhere around there…)
“Hey there! It’s Ellie. I’ll be your co-host today, and we’ll be interviewing…” These were the first words I got to speak on BetterBrave Community Podcast, and my hands were shaking. But I was excited because I got to be part of making a podcast to help demystify workplace sexual harassment with a team of 3 other bad-ass women. I couldn’t help but feel that the podcast was going to be something so much more than myself.
I’ll introduce this episode by saying this, “Hey, I’m Ellie, I’ll be your co-host today. We have Phuong Do, Aliia Zhakypova, and Gabriela Oliveira, my lovely team members on. And they get to share how this podcast taught us how big sexual harassment is, how powerful the community fighting it is, and how excited we are to be a part of the movement.”
Sexual Harassment Is Huge
“Working on this podcast made me realize how this issue is relevant, and it’s happening, but we don’t pay attention to it.” — Gabi Oliveira
We all agreed that between the background research and the interviews for the podcast, sexual harassment in the workplace exploded from an issue we knew existed to the level of a pervasive disease.
The #MeToo movement shot sexual harassment into the public eye. But as we worked on the podcast, we realized that we still only had a partial view of the issue. The movement was everywhere, but of course, the media only took the juicy stories. We see harassment in the media industry, politics, or in extreme cases. Although we now know harassment is everywhere, we only see people who are both harassing individuals and famous. Or people who are harassing people in particularly violent or serial ways.
With what we knew of sexual harassment, we had all settled on one of three uninformed ideas about sexual harassment — it had to be big to be worth bringing up, was easy to report, or only happened in high up places.
From the first episode, sexual harassment became much bigger than that. Working with Tammy Cho, BetterBrave’s co-founder and CEO, and the other seven guests virtually destroyed the limitations we had put on sexual harassment.
“If it’s not that serious, people will just overlook the problem,” — Aliia Zhakypova
The first person to open the bounds of sexual harassment for us was Tammy. Sexual harassment wasn’t just physical violence. Harassment could be consistent comments that objectify you and bring you down, or it could be uncomfortably long hugs.
After that episode, the narrative kept building. Jean Hyams, a civil rights lawyer, opened the borders to anything that the person being harassed is uncomfortable with. This definition puts the power in the hands of the victim — they get to define what is crossing the line. And they get to determine how they solve the issue.
Which, also, isn’t as straight forward as we thought. The way the power dynamics work in the workplace puts a victim at the very bottom of the totem pole. That could be because of their gender, seniority, citizenship, role, or any other attribute. But somehow, the victim is at the bottom, and often speaking up doesn’t only take an incredible amount of courage. It takes understanding and being able to take the risk that companies retaliate against 75% of individuals who formally report sexual harassment cases.
For reference, researchers have found that only around 2–10% of sexual harassment reports are false. Additionally, people who falsely accuse other individuals typically have a history of similar lies, drug addiction, or abuse from other parties. This profile doesn’t fit the majority of workplace reports.
False reporting does happen, but not so often that anyone could retaliate against 75% of reports justly.
The thing about power dynamics is that when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, you can’t do much about it. “Bottom of the totem pole” means the intern who needs this job to put themselves through their next year of college, it means the single mom who’s living paycheck to paycheck. It often means individuals who can’t afford the risk of being retaliated against.
Sexual harassment in the workplace not only happens and happens everywhere, but often, no one knows. Not because victims aren’t brave enough to speak up, but because they don’t have a net to fall into.
But There is a Brilliant Community Trying to Solve it
“The biggest takeaway for me was how easy it was to reach out to everyone. So many times I was thinking, we will email this person, but they will never never respond… but then everyone did” — Aliia Zhakypova
And I will add, everyone was amazing — each individual we reached out to either said yes or no. We didn’t get ghosted. And those who said yes came on with an energy and an openness that we could feel over our COVID induced podcasting zoom calls.
The community was both passionate about what they were doing and incredibly welcoming. We had several calls with guests where we all left different people.
One message that we got throughout was that no matter who you are, you have the power to change your own situation or another person’s situation. When we were speaking with Adrienne Lawrence, lawyer, television host, and author of the newly published book, “Staying in the Game,” she reminded us that we all have an instinct in situations we think aren’t quite right. We have to wrap ourselves around that instinct and keep fighting.
Over and over again, this happened. We sat on the other end of conversations that revealed to us exactly how ingrained sexual harassment is into our culture, and how meager or great our gains have been. But, we left hopeful after every conversation because the people who have worked with this problem for decades still feel hope. They see the steps forward and celebrate.
“Working with Tammy was really a blessing in seeing what a CEO can look like… Tammy is so kind, she listens and her tone of voice isn’t super imposing but she has a company that works…” — Gabi Oliveira
And they invited us to celebrate with them. Everyone from lawyers to therapists and authors came on and shared their expertise, which was years in the making. But instead of telling us how far we had to go, they pulled us on the train and told us to bring our friends with us. Time and time again, we were reminded that you can be anyone to join this fight — you don’t have to do much. Share a post, stand in solidarity with a co-worker, fight for some appropriately sized t-shirts, nudge the culture in the right direction.
What had us even more convinced that we were welcome was how diverse the community was. We got to talk to women and men across races, education, and socioeconomic levels, and each of them had so much to share. Tammy was a CEO, a role typically reserved in our minds for men because it supposedly requires stone-cold heartlessness to run a business (which is only achievable by men?).
Tammy wasn’t heartless, and she didn’t have a superiority complex. She was thoughtful, respectful, and kind. She also runs an entire organization that’s making strides to demolish one of the predominant issues of today.
The community showed us and made us feel that we can be anyone to fight sexual harassment — we don’t have to be a victim, or some great visionary, or an entrepreneur. All we have to do is make a decision and join the fray.
We’re Excited to Join Them
“I think about all the people suffering alone who will be able to relate to all the things we talk about and will be able to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel they’re going through and know that they’re not alone” — Phuong Do
Making this podcast put the power in our hands to increase awareness for the reality of this issue. We are all freshmen at a weird online but not online college. We got to work with a CEO to go from wanting to create a podcast to having a podcast in 3 months (give or take).
As I was assembling this article, Gabi reminded me that in our very first episode, Tammy told us that we didn’t have to be an activist to advocate for better workplace culture. That’s where it begins. Changing our culture, and it’s something anyone of us can do. It’s something we got a little taste of, and something we’re all hooked on now.
“How can you stop? It doesn’t stop.” — Gabi Oliveira
“If we keep doing what we’re doing with BetterBrave and spreading the word and encouraging people to change their mindsets… there can still be hope” — Phuong Do
“It changed me, and I don’t think I’ll be the same employee anymore,” — Aliia Zhakypova
So join us. Listen to our podcast when it comes out (look for the teaser on May 27th!!). Then join us — we can fight this together — one workplace at a time.