AmpEquity Speaker Series — Gloria Allred

By Rafael Sanchez

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) kicked-off a two-day AmpEquity Speaker Series event with the film screening of in Spieker Forum on Tuesday, October 9The documentary was intelligently inspiring, showcasing how a young woman pushed conventional boundaries to become a powerful civil rights attorney. Gloria’s bio and body of work is highlighted through women’s rights cases, unpacking how her commitment to her work is personally driven through her lived experience. In her fight against sexual misconduct, Gloria pushed the court on the arbitrary time period that is the statute of limitations. She argued that misconduct is unacceptable behavior and the passage of time shouldn’t deprive people of justice. As a survivor, Gloria has an emotional connection to her work and it’s what spurs her drive in the fight for gender equity. Gloria quickly realized that her high-profile cases gave her the platform to reach a larger audience. She has been able to bring critical civil rights issues to the forefront of media and ignite conversations. She has created awareness of issues, allowing victims to join together and create the community and support needed to heal with one another. In the Bill Cosby case, for example, she initially gave three women a platform to share their injustice, eventually igniting a wave of over 50 women to come forward. The film, which pairs the media’s portrayal of Gloria alongside that of her client’s, skillfully corrects negative perceptions of Gloria and shifts the focus to her accomplishments.

After the film screening, Dr. Kellie McElhaney, EGAL Founding Executive Director, took center stage for a fireside chat with Sophie Sartain, the Director and Producer of the Netflix Original Documentary, which premiered in competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Kellie and Sophie appeared extremely comfortable with one another, sharing past stories and experiences that dated back to when they shared a dorm room as undergraduate students.

Kellie McElhaney (left) and Sophie Sartain (right) | Photo by Jim Block

To start, Sophie recounted the story of how she was able to convince Gloria to make the film. It took a few attempts and after following up, Gloria finally agreed. Sophie also talked about the making of the film and her attempts to best highlight Gloria’s illustrious career during an era of #metoo and #timesup.

The fireside chat ended with questions from the audience. As I looked around, I noticed I was the only male student in the room. This was a huge loss. As I move forward and continue to advocate for equity, it’s important for me to figure out how to use events like this to amplify inclusion and create spaces of belonging.

The following day, the star of the documentary, Gloria Allred, joined a small group of students, alumni, administrators, and faculty for lunch. I was a little nervous to meet Gloria at this lunch. In my hometown, which was a low socioeconomic community comprised almost exclusively of US minorities, ironically, civil rights issues weren’t really discussed. However, I learned that Gloria represented Nicky Diaz in claims against the former gubernatorial candidate, Meg Whitman. Meg knew that Nicky was undocumented as she served as her nanny for close to a decade before being abruptly terminated prior to Meg’s run for office. Gloria used her power to give an undocumented Latina woman a voice because it was the right thing to do; igniting a wave of Latinos to vote and shift the election away from Meg Whitman to the incumbent, Governor Jerry Brown.

Kellie McElhaney (left) and Gloria Allred (right) | Photo by Jim Block

After the lunch, Gloria joined a packed house in Spieker Forum to share her personal leadership journey and non traditional path to the courtroom. Kellie highlighted how Gloria’s career and accomplishments as a civil rights attorney depicts what it means to be an Equity Fluent Leader, someone who understands the value of different lived experiences and courageously uses their power to address barriers, increase access, and drive change for positive impact. There was a lot of excitement from everyone in the room. Whether talking about gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other issues, Gloria clearly points to how long we still have to travel to obtain equal rights. The fight needs to continue to progress to win, and maintain, rights for women and minorities. Gloria was asked about an incident, depicted in the film, that occured during the Women’s March, acknowledging how well she handled a very difficult situation. Very genuinely she communicated that that man’s opinion matters, even if it opposed her views. She believes that we all have the right to freedom of speech.

In these battles, and when moving forward in the corporate world, we have to know what we care about and what we believe in. We need to assess situations and live by each one of our values or beliefs. The takeaway for me is to be honest and communicate the truth. Organizations want to make sure that their employees feel safe and are in an environment that is inclusive. They want to uncover truths and limit liability. There are exponential benefits and it takes action to transform the power base. By the end, I understood Gloria’s impact and the role she has played in so many critical civil rights moments.

Gloria uses her knowledge of the law to empower and enable marginalized groups. In talking to Gloria, I quickly noticed how much she cares about all people. She’s a powerhouse advocate for all victims whose rights have been violated and has a proven-track record as an active ally to all. Gloria’s curiosity and ability to listen show how she has been able to empathize with so many different people to get them the justice they deserve.

Photos by Jim Block

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.

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