Laurie Girand: ImWithThem.org & Beyond Marketing Strategies Founder

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My Native Admission Statement: I have a passion for advocating for fairness, whether in society, government regulation, or business, on behalf of the less powerful. I help to organize those who would otherwise despair and be divided. My strengths are in developing expertise in an issue and breaking complex social and economic problems down into smaller pieces with viable solutions. I expect moral accountability from those with power and responsibility, including our government representatives. I love finding win-wins that make the world a better place. I’m occasionally mistaken for an attorney, educator or a medical professional, but my masters is in business administration.

How did you get into the industry?

I had been focused on barriers discouraging girls and women in STEM and was invited to a gathering of the Alliance for Southern California Innovation’s Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion. We sought solutions to problems that prevented diverse candidates’ success in tech. I proposed that a technical solution could readily connect victims and survivors of sexual misconduct who share a common perpetrator. Another member of the working group and I were tasked with exploring a solution.

Any emerging industry trends?

#MeToo has revealed three trends: 1) Work-related harassment and assault may be caused by serial perpetrators; this means that if an organization stops a single perpetrator, instead of covering for them, the impact is more substantial than previously realized. 2) Harassment and assault do not have to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; other legal standards, including partial-substantiation of ethics violations or preponderance-of-evidence may be sufficient to achieve responses. 3) Organizations that try to cover-up gross ethical violations and repeated sexual misconduct through confidentiality agreements can and do suffer greater financial consequences when their failure to eliminate sexual misconduct comes to light.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The media has primarily focused on emotional reasons why sexual misconduct isn’t reported: shame, humiliation, trauma and fear of retaliation. This approach plays into the stereotype of women as weak and emotional. In reality, many systemic barriers serve to dampen reporting, from the HR manager who implies a person is over-reacting to inaccessible 1-800 hotlines to confidentiality agreements that hide the upside of reporting to organizations that hire executives who have been previously fired for misconduct. We need to address these very real barriers and ensure organizations truly encourage reporting

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

In the late 1990’s, my daughter was poisoned in an unpasteurized apple juice outbreak. We were told by the FDA and CDC they wouldn’t release the names of other survivors because we were all covered by HIPAA. Though I spent five years engaged in consumer advocacy on behalf of victims of foodborne illness, I never met another victim of that outbreak. Similarly, in early 2017 when the brave women of USA Women’s Gymnastics came forward, and the multiple survivors of Bill Cosby participated in a second trial, it was clear to me that isolation played an important role in deterring justice for those experiencing sexual misconduct. I’m With Them is organization- and industry-independent. We break through that isolation and facilitate increased substantiation of claims. As our dataset increases over time, we may be able to better understand the prevalence of serial perpetrators, patterns of their behaviors, and the proportion of impact they have, which will help organizations prevent sexual misconduct in the first place.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Many organizations have reporting systems that repel reporters. We are focused on ensuring that large organizations make their reporting systems accessible, warm and welcoming to both employees and affiliates.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

A victim or survivor of sexual misconduct will use our website and learn they are not alone. When they are able to meet others affected by the same perpetrator, they have the potential to provide one another with affirmation and support. Likewise, they can pool skills and resources in their approach to obtaining justice. For example, one might have access to financial resources, another might have a trusted attorney, and still another might be strong in social media. Together, they may be able to prove a pattern of behavior to authorities that was harder to prove in only one case. They can choose the reporting mechanism that works best for their situations. We are hopeful that they can stop the perpetrator from striking again.

How do you motivate others?

I am fortunate to work with millennials who are passionate about the cause and want to learn and try new skills. They are self-motivated, and a pleasure to collaborate with. With those in positions of power, I seek a shared perspective about inequity. I’m usually the data expert on the topic at hand and try to ensure they have the data I have, which helps to build common ground. Sometimes, it’s a matter of helping people understand that both sides can make gains.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Nonprofits are hard because traditional funding models require tirelessly and repeatedly seeking donations. Likewise, nonprofits rarely consider how to differentiate themselves, and so unnecessary competition is constantly nipping at your heels. If you’re passionate about working in the field, look to organizations that leverage less-standard forms of funding that are building new models of financial sustainability.

What do I do best?

Synthesize big challenges and then focus on very specific opportunities.

What are my aspirations?

Build I’m With Them to serve tens of thousands of users. Catalyze a shift in societal attitudes, values, and ethics that renders sexual misconduct intolerable in U.S. organizations.

My Biggest Success?

Three kids who can relate to people who are different than them, who are passionate about their interests, and who are contributing to making the world a better place.