How can you speak up for equity in a way that brings other people along rather than risks an unproductive battle?
Nina Shaw, the entertainment lawyer who The New York Times has called “The Hollywood Power Behind Those Seeking a Voice,” has one simple magic word: “We.”
More broadly, she calls it “We Speak.”
“It’s where I talk less about the personal situation and more about the organization,” Shaw says. For example, she might say:
- “I’m concerned that we’re not sending the right message.
- I’m concerned that we’re not living up to the things that we believe in.
- I’m concerned that we’re not running the business in the way that we want.
- I’m concerned that we’re not getting the best from all of us, that all of us are not allowed to do our best.”
Shaw says she often couches equity in “We Speak”—and works hard to set a tone and standard that values everyone, even those she is in disagreement with.
Applying “We Speak” to Working Parent Issues
Over this past year, Shaw said fostering inclusivity around working parents was a big issue where “we speak” helped.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions during the pandemic about people whose attention is split—primarily working parents, who are trying to oversee their children’s education and trying to do their work within the workday. And, it’s impossible when it comes down to it. They can’t do two things at once. And the time that they have to give to overseeing their children’s education is very specific.
“So, there’s been a lot of discussion about how to help those people, how to cover the work that they’re not often able to do. And, there have been people, especially people who don’t have children who have, I don’t want to use the word “resentful” because that’s too strong, but a kind of lack of empathy.”
How did she use “We Speak” to break through this?
“I find myself saying, ‘What kind of people do we want to be? We all care about children. Most of us have been parents or guardians or caregivers. How would we want to be treated in this particular situation and how can we be leaders? How can we be the firm that’s different?'”
Shaw discusses this and other issues in the March episode of Women Amplified, where she also shares a woman from history who she would most like to have lunch with during this Women’s History Month.
What Woman from History Would You Have Lunch With?
“I would pick Ida B. Wells for any number of reasons,” Shaw says. But the main reason?
“She had a life that spanned the Civil War to World War I. And, she was such an outlier. How do you, as a woman born during that time who is both a wife and a mother, become such a crusader—so much so that you’re willing to endanger your own life? I mean, where do you get the courage from?”
“I would love to hear what it was that made her just say, “No more, no more lynching, and I will do everything humanly possible towards that end.”
What woman from history would you most want to meet, and why? Send your answer to Newsletter@conferencesforwomen.org. We will share highlights in next month’s newsletter.
Nina Shaw is a founding partner in Los Angeles-based entertainment law firm, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano. She spoke at the 2021 California Conference for Women.